By Leo

In April, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case Department of Commerce v. New York and could render a decision any day on whether or not the 2020 federal census should include a question asking about citizenship status.  In January, a Federal District Court in New York ruled that commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, violated the law by pushing for that question.

Those in agreement with the District ruling suggest that the Trump administration wants to add the question as a way of discouraging immigrants from participating in the census, thereby diminishing the political power of immigrant communities.  This, they say, would violate the Constitution on the grounds that the census must be an “actual enumeration” of all persons within the United States, not only citizens.

Proponents of the citizenship question counter that citizenship status is a perfectly natural question to ask in the census, that any government would want to know how many citizens it has, and that several past iterations of the 10-year count have included similar questions.

It remains to be seen how the Supreme Court will rule, but chances are it will not be the last time an issue of race, identity, or citizenship pops up in the politics of the census.  From its creation by the Constitution as a way to apportion seats in congress according to populations of the states, the count has always begged tricky questions that essentially boil down to:

Who is a real American?  Who isn’t?  Who is a citizen?  Who is three-fifths of a human being?  Who might not be human at all?  What does it mean to be White?  To be Colored? To be civilized?  How do you classify the myriad of human backgrounds, cultures and stories into finite, discrete “races?”

The Civil War and Fourteenth Amendment helped shed light on some of these questions, but it would be a mistake to think that they belong to the past.  The NPR podcast Codeswitch has done an excellent series on census, and this episode from last August gives a broad overview of the history.

Here at Chequamegon History, though, we aren’t in the business broad overviews.  We are going to drill down right into the data.  We’ll comb through the 1850 federal census for La Pointe County and compare it with the 1860 data for La Pointe and Ashland Counties. Just for fun, we’ll compare both with the 1855 Wisconsin State Census for La Pointe County, then double back to the 1840 federal census for western St. Croix County.  Ultimately, the hope is to help reveal how the population of the Chequamegon region viewed itself, and ultimately how that differed from mainstream America’s view.  With luck, that will give us a framework for more stories like Amorin’s recent post on the killing of Louis Gurnoe.

Background

Daniel Harris JohnsonJudge Daniel Harris Johnson of Prairie du Chien had no apparent connection to Lake Superior when he was appointed to travel northward to conduct the census for La Pointe County in 1850.  The event made an impression on him. It gets a mention in his short memorial biography in the 1902 Proceedings of the State Bar Association.

Two years after statehood, Lake Superior’s connection to the rest of Wisconsin was hardly existent.  This was long before Highways 51 and 53 were built, and commerce still flowed west to east.  Any communication to or from Madison was likely to first go through Michigan via Mackinaw and Sault Ste. Marie, or through Minnesota Territory via St. Paul, Stillwater, and Sandy Lake.  La Pointe County had been created in 1845, and when official business had to happen, a motley assortment of local residents who could read and write English:  Charles Oakes, John W. Bell, Antoine Gordon, Alexis Carpentier, Julius Austrian, Leonard Wheeler, etc. would meet to conduct the business.

It is unclear how much notice the majority Ojibwe and French-patois speaking population took of this or of the census generally.  To them, the familiar institutions of American power, the Fur Company and the Indian Agency, were falling apart at La Pointe and reorganizing in St. Paul with dire consequences for the people of Chequamegon.  When Johnson arrived in September, the Ojibwe people of Wisconsin had already been ordered to remove to Sandy Lake in Minnesota Territory for their promised annual payments for the sale of their land.  That fall, the government would completely botch the payment, and by February, hundreds of people in the Lake Superior Bands would be dead from starvation and disease.

So, Daniel Johnson probably found a great deal of distraction and anxiety among the people he was charged to count.  Indians, thought of by the United States as uncivilized federal wards and citizens of their own nations, were typically not enumerated.  However, as I wrote about in my last post, race and identity were complicated at La Pointe, and the American citizens of the Chequamegon region also had plenty to lose from the removal.

Madison, for its part, largely ignored this remote, northern constituency and praised the efforts to remove the Ojibwe from the state.  It isn’t clear how much Johnson was paying attention to these larger politics, however.  He had his own concerns:

Johnson1Johnson2Johnson3

House Documents, Volume 119, Part 1.  U.S. Government Printing Office, 1859.  Google Books.

So, in “that thinly settled and half civilized region,” Johnson only found a population of about 500, “exclusive of Indians.”  He didn’t think 500 was a lot, but by some counts, that number would have seemed very high.  Take the word of a European visitor to La Pointe:

Among 200 Indians, only a few white families live there. One of the boatmen gave us a name, with which we found Mr. Austrian.                           

~Carl Scherzer, 1852

And, from this Mr. Austrian, himself:

There were only about 6 white American inhabitants on the Island, about 50 Canadian Frenchmen who were married to squaws, and a number of full blooded Indians, among whom was chief Buffalo who was a descendant of chiefs & who was a good Indian and favorably regarded by the people.

~Joseph Austrian, Brother of Julius and La Pointe resident 1851-52

Who lived around La Pointe in 1850?

In her biography, William W. Warren:  the Life, Letters, and Times of an Ojibwe LeaderTheresa Schenck describes the short life of an ambitious young man from La Pointe.  William Whipple Warren (1825-1853) grew up on the Island speaking Ojibwe as his first language.  His father was a Yankee fur trader from New York.  His mother was a daughter of Michel and Madeline Cadotte.  In his famous History of the Ojibways Warren describes the Ojibwe as people with whom he readily claims kinship, but he doesn’t write as if he is an Ojibwe person himself.  However, he helped interpret the Treaty of 1847 which had definitively made him an Indian in the eyes of the United States (a fact he was willing to use for economic gain).  Still, a few years later, when he became a legislator in Minnesota Territory he dismissed challenges to his claims of whiteness.

If he were alive today, Warren might get a chuckle out of this line from the South African comedian Trevor Noah.

People mocked me. Gave me names like mixed breed, half caste — I hate that term ‘half’. Why half? Why not double? Or twice as nice, I don’t know.

— Trevor Noah

William Warren did not see himself as quite the walking contradiction we might see him as today.  He was a product of the time and place he came from:  La Pointe.  By 1850, he had left that place, but his sister and a few hundred of his cousins still lived there. Many of them were counted in the census.

What is Metis?

Half-breeds, Mixed-bloods, Frenchmen, Wiisakodewininiwag, Mitif, Creoles, Metis, Canadiens, Bois Brules, Chicots, French-of-the-country, etc.–at times it seems each of these means the same thing. At other times each has a specific meaning. Each is ambiguous in its own way.  In 1850, roughly half the families in the Chequamegon area fit into this hard-to-define category.

Kohl1

Kohl2

Kohl, J. G. Kitchi-Gami: Wanderings around Lake Superior. London: Chapman and Hall, 1860.  pg. 260-61.
“Where do I stay?  I cannot tell you.  I am a voyageur–I am a Chicot, sir.  I stay everywhere.  My grandfather was a voyageur; he died on voyage.  My father was a voyageur; he died on voyage.    I will also die on voyage and another Chicot will take my place.” ~Unnamed voyageur qtd. in Kohl
We were accompanied on our trip throughout the lakes of western Canada by half-Indians who had paternal European blood in their veins.  Yet so often, a situation would allow us to spend a night inside rather than outdoors, but they always asked us to choose to Irish camp outside with the Indians, who lived at the various places.  Although one spoke excellent English, and they were drawn more to the great American race, they thought, felt, and spoke—Indian!  ~Carl Scherzer

 

 

 

 

 

In describing William Warren’s people, Dr. Schenck writes,

Although the most common term for people of mixed Indian and European ancestry in the nineteenth century was “half-breed,” the term “mixed blood” was also used.  I have chosen to use the latter term, which is considered less offensive, although biologically inaccurate, today.  The term “métis” was not in usage at the time, except to refer to a specific group of people of mixed ancestry in the British territories to the north.  “Wissakodewinini,” the word used by the Ojibwe, meant “burned forest men,” or bois brulés in French, so called because half-breeds were like the wood of a burned forest, which is often burned on one side, and light on the other (pg. xv).

Schenck is correct in pointing out that mixed-blood was far more commonly used in 19th-century sources than Metis (though the latter term did exist).  She is also correct in saying that the term is more associated with Canada and the Red River Country.  There is an additional problem with Metis, in that 21st-century members of the Wannabe Tribe have latched onto the term and use it, incorrectly, to refer to anyone with partial Native ancestry but with no affiliation to a specific Indian community.

That said, I am going to use Metis for two reasons.  The first is that although blood (i.e. genetic ancestry) seemed to be ubiquitous topic of conversation in these communities, I don’t think “blood” is what necessarily what defined them.  The “pure-blooded French Voyageur” described above by Kohl clearly saw himself as part of Metis, rather than “blanc” society.  There were also people of fully-Ojibwe ancestry who were associated more with Metis society than with traditional Ojibwe society (see my post from April).  As such, I find Metis the more versatile and accurate term, given that it means “mixed,” which can be just as applicable to a culture and lifestyle as it is to a genetic lineage.

louis_riel.jpg

One time Canadian pariah turned national hero, Louis Riel and his followers had cousins at La Pointe (Photo:  Wikipedia)

The second reason I prefer Metis is precisely because of the way it’s used in Manitoba.  Analogous to the mestizo nations of Latin America, Metis is not a way of describing any person with Native and white ancestry.  The Metis consider themselves a creole-indigenous nation unto themselves, with a unique culture and history.  This history, already two centuries old by 1850, represents more than simply a borrowed blend of two other histories.  Finally, the fur-trade families of Red River came from Sault Ste. Marie, Mackinac, Grand Portage, and La Pointe. There were plenty of Cadottes, Defaults, Roys, Gurnoes, and Gauthiers among them.  There was even a Riel family at La Pointe.  They were the same nation    

Metis and Ojibwe Identity in the American Era

When the 1847 Treaty of Fond du Lac “stipulated that the half or mixed bloods of the Chippewas residing with them shall be considered Chippewa Indians, and shall, as such, be allowed to participate in all annuities which shall hereafter be paid…” in many ways, it contradicted two centuries of tradition.  Metis identity, in part, was dependent on not being Indian.  They were a minority culture within a larger traditional Anishinaabe society.  This isn’t to say that Metis people were necessarily ashamed of their Native ancestors–expressions of pride are much easier to find than expressions shame–they were just a distinct people. This was supposedly based in religion and language, but I would argue it came mostly from paternal lineage (originating from highly-patriarchal French and Ojibwe societies) and with the nature of men’s work.  For women, the distinction between Ojibwe and Metis was less stark.

The imposition of American hegemony over the Chequamegon region was gradual.  With few exceptions, the Americans who came into the region from 1820 to 1850 were adult men.  If new settlers wanted families, they followed the lead of American and British traders and married Metis and Ojibwe women. 

Still, American society on the whole did not have a lot of room for the racial ambiguity present in Mexico or even Canada.  A person was “white” or “colored.”  Race mixing was seen as a problem that affected particular individuals.  It was certainly not the basis for an entire nation.  In this binary, if Metis people weren’t going to be Indian, they had to be white.

The story of the Metis and American citizenship is complicated and well-studied.  There is risk of overgeneralizing, but let’s suffice to say that in relation to the United States government, Metis people did feel largely entitled to the privileges of citizenship (synonymous with whiteness until 1865), as well as to the privileges of Ojibwe citizenship.  There wasn’t necessarily a contradiction.

Whatever qualms white America might have had if they’d known about it, Metis people voted in American elections, held offices, and were counted by the census.

Ojibwe “Full-bloods” and the United States Census

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which
may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.     

~Excerpt from Article I Section II, U. S. Constitution

As I argued in the April post, our modern conception of “full-blood” and “mixed-blood” has been shaped by the “scientific” racism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The distinction, while very real in a cultural sense, was not well-grounded in biology.

The relationship of Indians (i.e. full-bloods or those living a traditional lifestyle) to American society and citizenship was possibly more contradictory then that of the Metis.  In one sense, America saw Indians as foreigners on their own continent:  either as enemies to be exterminated, or as domestic-dependent ward nations to be “protected.”  The constitutional language about the census calls for slaves to be counted as three-fifths of a person.  It says Indians shouldn’t be counted at all.

In another sense, however, the path to personhood in America was somewhat clearer for Indians than it was for African Americans.  Many New England liberals saw exodus to Liberia as the only viable future for free blacks. These same voices felt that Indians could be made white if only they were separated from their religions, cultures, and tribal identities.  In 1834, to avoid a second removal, the Brothertown Indians of Wisconsin petitioned congress for citizenship and the termination of collective title to their tribal lands.  In 1839, their request was granted.  In the eyes of the law, they had effectively become white.  Other communities would follow suit.  However, most Native people did not gain any form of American citizenship until 1924.

How did that play out for the Ojibwe people of Chequamegon, and how did it impact the 1850 census?  Well, it’s complicated.

Race, the Census, and Classifying Households 

The enumeration forms Daniel H. Johnson carried to La Pointe had more rows and columns than ever.  The Seventh Census was the first to count everyone in the household by name (previous versions only listed the Head of Household with tally marks).  It was also the first census to have a box for “color.”  Johnson’s choices for color were “white,” “black,” and “mulatto,” forcing him to make some decisions.

He seems to have tried to follow the Indians not taxed clause strictly.  40-50% of households in the region were headed by a full-blood Ojibwe person, possibly only two of them were enumerated.  You won’t find Chief Buffalo, Makadebinesi (Blackbird), Oshkinaawe, Omizhinaawe, Edawegiizhig, and their immediate families in the 1850 census.  Jechiikwii’o (often called Little Buffalo) is not in the document, even though he was an early Catholic convert, dressed in “white” clothing, and counted more Metis Ojibwe among his followers than full-bloods.  However, his son, Antoine Buffalo Sr. (Antoine Jachequaon) is counted.  Antoine, along with George Day, were counted as white heads of household by the census, though it is unclear if they had any European ancestry (Sources conflict.  If anyone has genealogical information for the Buffalo and Day families, feel free to comment on the post).  A handful of individuals called full-bloods in other sources, were listed as white.  This includes 90-year old Madeline Cadotte, Marie Bosquet, and possibly the Wind sisters (presumably descendants of Noodin, one of the St. Croix chiefs who became Catholic and relocated to La Pointe around this time).  They were married to Metis men or lived in Metis households.  All Metis were listed as white.

Johnson did invent new category for five other Ojibwe people:  “Civilized Indian,” which he seemed to use arbitrarily.  Though also living in Metis households, Mary Ann Cadotte, Osquequa Baszina, Marcheoniquidoque, Charlotte Houle, and Charles Loonsfoot apparently couldn’t be marked white the way Madeline Cadotte was.  These extra notations by Johnson and other enumeration marshals across the country are why the Seventh Federal Census is sometimes referred to as the first to count Native Americans.        

Enumerated Population by Race_ (1850 Census La Pointe and Bad River).svg

So, out of 470 individuals enumerated at La Pointe and Bad River (I’ve excluded Fond du Lac from my study) Johnson listed 465 (99%) as white.  By no definition, contemporary or modern, was the Chequamegon area 99% white in 1850.  The vast majority of names on the lines had Ojibwe ancestry, and as Chippewas of Lake Superior, were receiving annuities from the treaties.

There were a few white American settlers.  The Halls had been at La Pointe for twenty years.  The Wheelers were well-established at Odanah.  Junius and Jane Welton had arrived by then.  George Nettleton was there, living with a fellow Ohioan James Cadwell.  The infamous Indian agent, John Watrous, was there preparing the disastrous Sandy Lake removal.  Less easy to describe as American settlers, but clearly of European origins, Fr. Otto Skolla was the Catholic priest, and Julius Austrian was the richest man it town.

There were also a handful of American bachelors who had drifted into the region and married Metis women.  These first-wave settlers included government workers like William VanTassel, entrepreneurs like Peter VanderVenter, adventurers with an early connection to the region like Bob Boyd and John Bell, and homesteaders like Ervin Leihy.

For several reasons, Metis genealogy can be very difficult.  For those interested in tracing their La Pointe ancestors to Quebec or anywhere else, Theresa Schenck’s All Our Relations:  Chippewa Mixed Bloods and the Treaty of 1837 is an absolutely essential resource.

It is unclear how many of French-surnamed heads of household were Chicots (of mixed ancestry) and how many were Canadiens (of fully-French ancestry).  My sense is that it is about half and half.  Some of this can be inferred from birthplace (though a birthplace of Canada could indicate across the river at Sault Ste. Marie as easily it could a farm in the St. Lawrence Valley).  Intense genealogical study of each family might provide some clarifications, but I am going to follow Kohl’s voyageurs and not worry too much about it.  Whether it was important or not to Jean Baptiste Denomie and Alexis Carpentier that they had no apparent Indian ancestry and that they had come from “the true homeland” of Quebec, for all intents and purposes they had spent their whole adult lives in “the Upper Country,” and their families were “of the Country.”  They were Catholic and spoke a form of French that wasn’t taught in the universities.  American society would not see them as white in the way it saw someone like Sherman Hall as white.

So, by my reckoning, 435 of the 470 people counted at La Pointe  (92.5%) were Metis, full-blood Ojibwe living in Metis households, or Canadians in Metis families.  Adding the five “Civilized Indians” and the six Americans married into Metis families, the number rises to 95%.  I am trying to track down accurate data on the of Indians not taxed (i.e. non-enumerated full-bloods) living at or near La Pointe/Bad River at this time.  My best estimates would put it roughly the same as the number of Metis.  So, when Johnson describes a land with a language and culture foreign to English-speaking Americans, he’s right.

Birthplace, Age, and Gender

Ethnic composition is not the only data worth looking at if we want to know what this area was like 169 years ago.  The numbers both challenge and confirm assumptions of how things worked.

Let’s take mobility for example:

Reported Birthplace_ (1850 Census La Pointe and Bad River).svg

The young voyageur quoted by Kohl may have felt like he didn’t have a home other than en voyage, but 86% of respondents reported being born in Wisconsin.  Except for ten missionary children, all of these were Metis or “Civilized Indian.”  Wisconsin could theoretically mean Lac du Flambeau, Rice Lake, or even Green Bay, this but this number still seemed high to me.  I’m guessing more than 14% of 21st-century Chequamegon residents were born outside the state, and 19th-century records are all about commerce, long-distance travel, and new arrivals in new lands.  We have to remember that most of those records are coming from that 14%.

In September of 1850 the federal government was telling the Ojibwe of Wisconsin they needed to leave Wisconsin forever.  How the Metis fit into the story of the Sandy Lake Tragedy has always been somewhat fuzzy, but this data would indicate that for a clear majority, it meant a serious uprooting.

For those born outside Wisconsin, more than two-thirds reported being born in Michigan, Canada, or Minnesota Territory.  These are overwhelmingly Metis or in the case of Anglo-Canadians like Robert Morrin, heads of Metis households from areas with a fur-trade tradition.  Only eighteen individuals reported being born in the eastern United States.  Only three reported Europe.

I had more questions than assumptions about the gender and age breakdown of the population.  Would there be more women than men because of the dangerous jobs done by men or would mortality from childbirth balance that out?  Or maybe widows wouldn’t be counted if they returned to the wigwams of their mothers?  How would newcomers skew the age and gender demographics of the area?

Let’s take a look:

AG1 Total Enumerated Age Gender

A quick glance at Figure AG 1 shows that the population skewed male 248-222 and skewed very young (61% under 20 years old).  On the eve of Sandy Lake, the natural increase in the population seemed to be booming.

Wisconsin-Born_ (1850 Census La Pointe and Bad River) by Age and Gender.svg

The hypotheses that women had higher mortality rates and were more likely to be undercounted looked good until we limit the data to the Wisconsin-born population.  In Figure AG 2, we see that the male majority disappears entirely.  The youthful trend, indicating large families and a growing population, continues with 66% of the Wisconsin-born population being under 20.

Non-Wisconsin-Born_ (1850 Census La Pointe and Bad River) by Age and Gender.svg

The male skew of the total population was entirely due to those born outside Wisconsin.  This is not surprising given how much we’ve emphasized the number of men who came into the Lake Superior country to marry local women.

A look at the oldest residents in chart AG 2 and AG 3 hints at another story.  Madeline Cadotte is the only Wisconsin-born person over seventy to be counted.  The oldest men all came from Michigan and Canada.  Why?  My hypothesis is that between the fall of New France in 1759 and the establishment of Michel Cadotte’s post sometime around 1800, there wasn’t a large population or a very active fur trade around La Pointe proper.  That meant Cadotte’s widow and other full bloods were the oldest locally-born residents in 1850.  Their Metis contemporaries didn’t come over from the Soo or down from Grand Portage until 1810 or later.

Economics

Before the treaties, the economy of this area was built on two industries:  foraging and trade.  Life for Ojibwe people revolved around the seasonal harvest of fish, wild rice, game, maple sugar, light agriculture, and other forms of gathering food directly from the land.  Trade did not start with the French, and even after the arrival of European goods into the region, the primary purpose of trade seemed to be for cementing alliances and for the acquisition of luxury goods and sacred objects.  Richard White, Theresa Schenck, and Howard Paap have all challenged the myth of Ojibwe “dependence” on European goods for basic survival, and I find their arguments persuasive.

Trade, though, was the most important industry for Metis men and La Pointe was a center of this activity.  The mid-19th century saw a steep decline in trade, however, to be replaced by a toxic cycle of debts, land sales, and annuity payments.  The effects of this change on the Metis economy and society seem largely understudied.  The fur trade though, was on its last legs. Again, the Austrian travel writer Carl Scherzer, who visited La Pointe in 1852:

After this discussion of the of the rates of the American Fur Company and its agents, we want to add some details about the men whose labor and time exerted such a great influence on the fate and culture of the Indian tribes. We wish to add a few explanatory words about the sad presence on La Pointe of the voyageurs or courriers du bois.

This peculiar class of people, which is like a vein of metal that suddenly disappears within the bedrock and reappears many hundreds of miles away under the same geological conditions, their light reaches the borders of the eastern Canadas. The British people, with their religion and customs, reappeared on the shores of these northern lakes only in 1808 with the Fur Company. For labor they drew on those who could carry their wares across the lakes and communicate with the Indians.

Many young men of adventurous natures left the old wide streets of Montreal and moved into the trackless primeval forests of the West. Young and strong as laborers, they soon started to adopt the lifestyle and language of the aborigines. They married with the Indians and inhabit small settlements scattered throughout those mighty lands which begin at Mackinow Island and come up the upper lake to the region of Minnesota. They almost all speak the Canadian patois along with the language of the Chippewas, the tribe with which they came into kinship. We found only a few, even among the younger generation, who understood English.

Since then, every day the population of the otherwise deserted shore of Lake Superior increases with the discovery of copper mines. The animals driven away by the whirlwind of civilization toward the west, attract the Indians with their sensitive guns, leaving La Pointe, abandoned by the Company for their headquarters at St. Paul in Minnesota. Most voyageurs left the island, having seen their business in ruins and lacking their former importance. Just a few families remain here, making a meager livelihood of hunting, fishing, and the occasional convoy of a few travelers led by business, science, or love of nature who purchase their limited resources.

From Scherzer’s description, two things are clear.  It’s pretty clear from the flowery language of the Viennese visitor.Washington Irving and other Romantic-Era authors had already made the Voyageur into the stock stereotypical character we all know today. Th only change, though, is these days voyageurs are often depicted as representatives of white culture, but that’s a post for another time.

The second item, more pertinent to this post, is that a lot of voyageurs were out of work.  This is especially relevant when we look at our census data.  Daniel Johnson recorded the occupations of all males fifteen or over:

Occupations (1850 Census La Pointe and Bad River) 135 men, 15 years or older, listed with occupations.svg

A full 55% of enumerated men fifteen and older still identified themselves as voyageurs in 1850.  This included teenagers as well as senior citizens.  All were from Metis households, though aside from farmer, all of the other occupation categories in Figure O 1 included Metis people.

Mean Household Size by Occupation_ (1850 Census La Pointe and Bad River) .svg

A look at household sizes did not show voyageurs having to support significantly larger or smaller families when compared to the other occupation categories.

The other piece of economic data collected was value of real estate.  Here we see some interesting themes:

valueofrealestate1850Census.svg

If real estate is a good proxy for wealth in a farming community, it is an imperfect one in the Chequamegon area of 1850.  If a voyageur had no home but the river and portage, then we might not expect him to put his coin into land and buildings.  A teacher or Indian agent might draw a consistent salary but then live in supplied housing before moving on.  With that caveat, let’s dig into the data.

Excluding the single farmer, men in the merchant/trader group controlled the most wealth in real estate, with Julius Austrian controlling as much as the other merchants combined.  Behind them were carpenters and men with specific trades like cooper or shoemaker.  Those who reported their occupation generally as “laborer” were not far behind the tradesmen.  I suspect their real estate holdings may be larger and less varied than expected because of the number of sons and close relatives of Michel Cadotte Sr. who identified themselves as laborers.  Government and mission employees held relatively little real estate, but the institutions they represented certainly weren’t lacking in land or power.  Voyageurs come in seventh, just behind widows and ahead of fishermen of which there were only four in each category.

It is interesting, though, that the second and third richest men (by real estate) were both voyageurs, and voyageur shows a much wider range of households than some of the other categories:  laborers in particular.  With the number of teenagers calling themselves voyageurs, I suspect that the job still had more social prestige attached to it, in 1850, than say farmer or carpenter.

With hindsight we know that after 1854, voyageurs would be encouraged to take up farming and commercial fishing.  It is striking, however, how small these industries were in 1850.  Despite the American Fur Company’s efforts to push its Metis employees into commercial fishing in the 1830s, and knowing how many of the family names in Figure O 3 are associated with the industry, commercial fishing seemed neither popular nor lucrative in 1850.  I do suspect, however, that the line between commercial and subsistence fishing was less defined in those days and that fishing in general was seen as falling back on the Indian gathering lifestyle.  It wouldn’t be surprised if all these families were fishing alongside their Ojibwe relatives but didn’t really see fishing (or sugaring, etc.) as an occupation in the American sense.

Finally, it could not have escaped the voyageurs notice that while they were struggling, their former employers and their employers educated sons were doing pretty well.   They also would have noticed that it was less and less from furs. Lump annuity payments for Ojibwe land sales brought large amounts of cash into the economy one day a year.  It must have felt like piranhas with blood in the water.  Alongside their full-blood cousins, Metis Ojibwe received these payments after 1847, but they had more of a history with money and capitalism. Whether to identify with the piranha or the prey would have depended on all sorts of decisions, opportunities and circumstances.

Education and Literacy

The census also collected data on education and literacy, asking whether children had attended school within the year, and whether adults over twenty could read and write.  The history of white education efforts in this area are fairly well documented.  The local schools in 1850 were run by the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions (A.B.C.F.M.) at the La Pointe and Odanah missions, and an entire generation had come of age at La Pointe in the years since Rev. Sherman Hall first taught out of Lyman Warren’s storehouse in 1831.  These Protestant ministers and teachers railed against the papists and heathens in their writings, but most of their students were Catholic or traditional Ojibwe in religion.  Interestingly, much of the instruction was done in the Ojibwe language.  Unfortunately, however, the census does not indicate the language an individual is literate in.  I highly recommend The Ojibwe Journals of Edmund F. Ely, 1833-1849 if you are interested in these topics.

To start with, though, let’s look at how many people were going to school:

Number of Pupils by Age_ (1850 Census La Pointe and Bad River).svg

Thirty-nine students had gone to school in the previous year.  There is a lot of sample-size noise in the data, but it seems like ages 7-11 (what we would call the upper-elementary years) were the prime years to attend school.

Reported School Attendance for Children Ages 5-16_ (1850 Census La Pointe and Bad River).svg

Overall, most children had not attended school within the year.  Attendance rates were slightly higher for boys than for girls.  White children, all from two missionary families, had a 100% attendance rate compared to 24% for the Metis and “Civilized Indian” children.

We should remember, however, that not attending school within the year is not the same as having never attended school.  Twelve-year-old Eliza Morrin (later Morrison) is among the number that didn’t attend school, but she was educated enough to write her memoirs in English, which was her second language. They were published in 2002 as A Little History of My Forest Life, a fascinating account of Metis life in the decades following 1854.

Eliza’s parents were among the La Pointe adults who could read and write.  Her aunt, uncle, and adult cousins in the neighboring Bosquet (Buskey) house were not.  Overall, just over half of adults over 20 were illiterate without a significant gender imbalance.  Splitting by birthplace, however, shows the literacy rate for Wisconsin-born (i.e. Metis and “Civilized Indian”) was only 30%, down from the overall male literacy rate of 48%.  For Wisconsin-born women, the drop is only three points, from 47% to 44%.  This suggests Metis women were learning to read while their husbands and brothers (perhaps en voyage) were not.

Literacy Rate for Adults over 20 (1850 Census La Pointe and Bad River) by Gender and Birthplace_.svg

And this is exactly what the data say when we split by occupation.  The literacy rate for voyageurs was only 13%.  This beats fisherman–all four were illiterate–but lagged far behind all other types of work.

Literacy Rate for Adults over 20 (1850 Census La Pointe and Bad River) by Occupation_.svg

If education was going to be a factor in the economic mobility of unemployed voyageurs, the trends weren’t looking good.

Odds and Ends

Two marriages were reported as occurring in the year previous to the census:  Peter and Caroline Vanderventer and Pierre and Marguerite Robideaux (ak.a. Peter and Margaret Rabideaux).   Though married, however, Caroline was not living with her husband, a 32-year old grocer from New York.  She (along with their infant daughter) was still in the home of her parents Benjamin and Margaret Moreau (Morrow).  The Vanderventers eventually built a home together and went on to have several more children. It appears their grandson George Vanderventer married Julia Rabideaux, the granddaughter of Peter and Margaret.

I say appears in the case of George and Julia, because Metis genealogy can be tricky.  It requires lots of double and triple checking.  Here’s what I came across when I once tried to find an unidentified voyageur known only as Baptiste:

Voyageurs by Given Name (1850 Census La Pointe and Bad River)

Sometimes it feels like for every Souverain Denis or Argapit Archambeau, there are at least 15 Jean-Baptiste Cadottes, 12 Charles Bresettes, 10 Francois Belangers and 8 Joseph DeFoes.  Those old Canadian names had a way of persisting through the generations.  If you were a voyageur at La Pointe in 1850, there was nearly a 30% chance your name was Jean-Baptiste. To your friends you might be John-Baptist, Shabadis, John, JB, or Battisens, and you might be called something else entirely when the census taker came around.

The final column on Daniel Johnson’s census asked whether the enumerated person was “deaf and dumb, blind, insane, idiotic, pauper, or convict.”  20 year-old Isabella Tremble, living in the household of Charles Oakes, received the unfortunate designation of idiotic.  26-year-old Francois DeCouteau did not have a mark in that column, but had “Invalid” entered in for his occupation.    It’s fair to say we’ve made some progress in the treatment of people with disabilities.

Final Thoughts

I am not usually a numbers person when it comes to history.  I’ll always prefer a good narrative story, to charts, tables, and cold numbers.  Sometimes, though, the numbers help tell the story.  They can help us understand why when Louis Gurnoe was killed, no one was held accountable.  At the very least, they can help show us that the society he lived in was under significant stress, that the once-prestigious occupation of his forefathers would no longer sustain a family, and that the new American power structure didn’t really understand or care who his people were.

Ultimately, the census is about America describes itself.  From the very beginning, it’s never been entirely clear if in E. pluribus unum we should emphasize the pluribus or the unum.  We struggled with that in 1850, and we still struggle today.  To follow the Department of Commerce v. New York citizenship case, I recommend Scotusblog.  For more census posts about this area in the 19th century, keep following Chequamegon History.

Sources, Data, and Further Reading
  • Paap, Howard D. Red Cliff, Wisconsin a History of an Ojibwe Community ; Volume 1 The Earliest Years: the Origin to 1854. North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc., 1854.
  • Satz, Ronald N. Chippewa Treaty Rights: the Reserved Rights of Wisconsin’s Chippewa Indians in Historical Perspective. University of Wisconsin Press, 1997.
  • Original Census Act of May 23, 1850 (includes form and instructions for marshals). (PDF)
  • Compiled data spreadsheets (Google Drive Folder) I’ll make these a lot more user friendly in future census posts.  By the time it occurred to me that I should include my tables in this post, most of them were already done in tally marks on scrap paper.
  • Finally, these are the original pages, scanned from microfilm by FamilySearch.com.  I included the image for Fond du Lac (presumably those living on the Wisconsin side of the St. Louis River) even though I did not include it in any of the data above.

 

 

By Amorin Mello

Early Life among the Indians

by Benjamin Green Armstrong

Early Indian History.

CHAPTER I.

The First Treaty.—The Removal Order.— Treaties of 1837 and 1842.—A Trip to Washington.—In New York City with Only One Dime.—At the Broker’s Residence.

 

Benjamin Armstrong is impressively detailed and yet inaccurate at times in his memoirs.  I recommend reading his words with a grain of salt.
There were four Treaties at Prairie Du Chien, but all were before 1835.  Armstrong probably meant the first Treaty in 1825.

My earliest recollections in Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota territories date back to 1835, at which time Gen. Cass and others on the part of the Government, with different tribes of Indians, viz : Potawatomies, Winnebagos, Chippewas, Saux and Foxes and the Sioux, at Prairie du Chien, met in open council, to define and agree upon boundary lines between the Saux and Foxes and the Chippewas. The boundary or division of territory as agreed upon and established by this council was the Mississippi River from Prairie du Chien north to the mouth of of Crow Wing River, thence to its source. The Saux and Foxes and the Sioux were recognized to be the owners of all territory lying west of the Mississippi and south of the Crow Wing River. The Chippewas, by this treaty, were recognized as the owners of all lands east of the Mississippi in the territory of Wisconsin and Minnesota, and north of the Crow Wing River on both sides of the Mississippi to the British Possessions, also Lake Superior country on both sides of the lake to Sault Ste. Marie and beyond. The other tribes mentioned in this council had no interest in the above divided territory from the fact that their possessions were east and south of the Chippewa Country, and over their title there was no dispute. The division lines were agreed to as described and a treaty signed. When all shook hands and covenanted with each other to live in peace for all time to come.

The 1837 Treaty with the Chippewa at St. Peters is also known as the White Pine Treaty.  Henry Dodge was the Commissioner.  (I could not find evidence of Josiah Snelling or Major Walking being present at this Treaty.)

In 1837 the Government entered into a treaty with the Chippewas of the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers at St. Peter, Minnesota, Col. Snelling, of the army, and Maj. Walker, of Missouri, being the commissioners on the part of the Government, and it appears that at the commencement of this council the anxiety on the part of the commissioners to perfect a treaty was so great that statements were made by them favorable to the Indians, and understood perfectly by them, that were not afterwards incorporated in the treaty. The Indians were told by these commissioners that the great father had sent them to buy their pine timber and their minerals that were hidden in the earth, and that the great father was very anxious to dig the mineral, for of such material he made guns and knives for the Indians, and copper kettles in which to boil their sugar sap.

“The timber you make but little use of is the pine your great father wants to build many steamboats, to bring your goods to you and to take you to Washington bye-and-bye to see your great father and meet him face to face. He does not want your lands, it is too cold up here for farming. He wants just enough of it to build little towns where soldiers stop, mining camps for miners, saw mill sites and logging camps. The timber that is best for you the great father does not care about. The maple tree that you make your sugar from, the birch tree that you get bark from for your canoes and from which you make pails for your sugar sap, the cedar from which you get material for making canoes, oars and paddles, your great father cares nothing for. It is the pine and minerals that he wants and he has sent us here to make a bargain with you for it,” the commissioners said.

And further, the Indians were told and distinctly understood that they were not to be disturbed in the possession of their lands so long as their men behaved themselves. They were told also that the Chippewas had always been good Indians and the great father thought very much of them on that account, and with these promises fairly and distinctly understood they signed the treaty that ceded to the government all their territory lying east of the Mississippi, embracing the St. Croix district and east to the Chippewa River, but to my certain knowledge the Indians never knew that they had ceded their lands until 1849, when they were asked to remove therefrom.

Robert Stuart was an American Fur Company agent and Acting Superintendent on Mackinac Island.
~ Wikipedia.org

In 1842 Robert Stewart, on the part of the government, perfected a treaty at La Pointe, on Lake Superior, in which the Chippewas of the St. Croix and Superior country ceded all that portion of their territory, from the boundary of the former treaty of 1837, with the Chippewas of the Mississippi and St. Croix Indians, east and along the south shore of the lake to the Chocolate River, Michigan, territory. No conversation that was had at this time gave the Indians an inkling or caused them to mistrust that they were ceding away their lands, but supposed that they were simply selling the pine and minerals, as they had in the treaty of 1837, and when they were told, in 1849, to move on and thereby abandon their burying grounds — the dearest thing to an Indian known— they began to hold councils and to ask each as to how they had understood the treaties, and all understood them the same, that was : That they were never to be disturbed if they behaved themselves. Messengers were sent out to all the different bands in every part of their country to get the understanding of all the people, and to inquire if any depredations had been committed by any of their young men, or what could be the reason for this sudden order to move. This was kept up for a year, but no reason could be assigned by the Indians for the removal order.

The 1842 Treaty at La Pointe is also known as the Copper Treaty.

The treaty of 1842 made at La Pointe stipulated that the Indians should receive their annuities at La Pointe for a period of twenty-five years. Now by reason of a non-compliance with the order to move away, the annuity payment at La Pointe had been stopped and a new agency established at Sandy Lake, near the Mississippi River, and their annuities taken there, and the Indians told to go there for them, and to bring along their women and children, and to remain there, and all that did not would be deprived of their pay and annuities.

In the fall of 1851, and after all the messengers had returned that had been sent out to inquire after the cause for the removal orders, the chiefs gathered in council, and after the subject had been thoroughly canvassed, agreed that representatives from all parts of the country should be sent to the new agency and see what the results of such a visit would be. A delegation was made up, consisting of about 500 men in all. They reached the new agency about September 10th of that year. The agent there informed them that rations should be furnished to them until such time as he could get the goods and money from St. Paul.

Some time in the latter part of the month we were surprised to hear that the new agency had burned down, and, as the word came to us,

“had taken the goods and money into the ashes.”

The agent immediately started down the river, and we saw no more of him for some time. Crowds of Indians and a few white men soon gathered around the burnt remains of the agency and waited until it should cool down, when a thorough search was made in the ashes for melted coin that must be there if the story was true that goods and money had gone down together. They scraped and scratched in vain All that was ever found in that ruin in the shape of metal was two fifty cent silver pieces. The Indians, having no chance to talk with the agent, could find out nothing of which they wished to know. They camped around the commissary department and were fed on the very worst class of sour, musty pork heads, jaws, shoulders and shanks, rotten corned beef and the poorest quality of flour that could possibly be milled. In the course of the next month no fewer than 150 Indians had died from the use of these rotten provisions, and the remainder resolved to stay no longer, and started back for La Pointe.

The Sandy Lake Tragedy and Ojibwe Removal efforts have had profound impact upon Chequamegon History.  John S. Watrous was the Indian Agent that Armstrong refers to as “Waters”.

At Fond du Lac, Minnesota, some of the employees of the American Fur Co. urged the Indians to halt there and wait for the agent to come, and finally showed them a message from the agent requesting them to stop at Fond du Lac, and stated that he had procured money and goods and would pay them off at that point, which he did during the winter of 1851. About 500 Indians gathered there and were paid, each one receiving four dollars in money and a very small goods annuity. Before preparing to leave for home the Indians wanted to know of the agent, John S. Waters, what he was going to do with the remainder of the money and goods. He answered that he was going to keep it and those who should come there for it would get their share and those that did not would get nothing. The Indians were now thoroughly disgusted and discouraged, and piling their little bundles of annuity goods into two piles agreed with each other that a game of lacrosse should be played on the ice for the whole stock. The Lake Superior Indians were to choose twenty men from among them and the interior Indians the same number. The game was played, lasting three days, and resulting in a victory for the interiors. During all this time councils were being held and dissatisfaction was showing itself on every hand. Threats were freely indulged in by the younger and more resolute members of the band, who thought while they tamely submitted, to outrage their case would never grow better. But the older and more considerate ones could not see the case as they did, but all plainly saw there was no way of redress at present and they were compelled to put up with just such treatment as the agent saw fit to inflict upon them. They now all realized that they had been induced to sign treaties that they did not understand, and had been imposed upon. They saw that when the annuities were brought and they were asked to touch the pen, they had only received what the agent had seen fit to give them, and certainly not what was their dues. They had lost 150 warriors on this one trip alone by being fed on unwholesome provisions, and they reasoned among themselves :

Is this what our great father intended? If so we may as well go to our old home and there be slaughtered where we can be buried by the side of our relatives and friends.

Other accounts of Oshogay and Chief Buffalo’s 1852 delegation have also been covered by Chequamegon History.

These talks were kept up after they had returned to La Pointe. I attended many of them, and being familiar with the language, I saw that great trouble was brewing and if something was not quickly done trouble of a serious nature would soon follow. At last I told them if they would stop where they were I would take a party of chiefs, or others, as they might elect, numbering five or six, and go to Washington, where they could meet the great father and tell their troubles to his face. Chief Buffalo and other leading chieftains of the country at once agreed to the plan, and early in the spring a party of six men were selected, and April 5th, 1852, was appointed as the day to start. Chiefs Buffalo and O-sho-ga, with four braves and myself, made up the party. On the day of starting, and before noon, there were gathered at the beach at old La Pointe, Indians by the score to witness the departure. We left in a new birch bark canoe which was made for the occasion and called a four fathom boat, twenty-four feet long with six paddles. The four braves did most of the paddling, assisted at times by O-sho-ga and sometimes by Buffalo. I sat at the stern and directed the course of the craft. We made the mouth of the Montreal River, the dividing line between Wisconsin and Michigan, the first night, where we went ashore and camped, without covering, except our blankets. We carried a small amount of provisions with us, some crackers, sugar and coffee, and depended on game and fish for meat. The next night, having followed along the beach all day, we camped at Iron River. No incidents of importance happened, and on the third day out from La Pointe, at 10 a. m. we landed our bark at Ontonagon, where we spent two days in circulating a petition I had prepared, asking that the Indians might be left and remain in their own country, and the order for their removal be reconsidered. I did not find a single man who refused to sign it, which showed the feeling of the people nearest the Indians upon the subject. From Ontonagon we went to Portage Lake, Houghton and Hancock, and visited the various copper mines, and all there signed the petition. Among the signers I would occasionally meet a man who claimed personal acquaintance with the President and said the President would recognize the signature when he saw it, which I found to be so on presenting the petition to President Filmore. Among them was Thomas Hanna, a merchant at Ontonagon, Capt. Roberts, of the Minnesota mine, and Douglas, of the firm of Douglas & Sheldon, Portage Lake. Along the coast from Portage Lake we encountered a number of severe storms which caused us to go ashore, and we thereby lost considerable time. Stopping at Marquette I also circulated the petition and procured a great many signatures. Leaving there nothing was to be seen except the rocky coast until we reached Sault Ste. Marie, where we arrived in the afternoon and remained all the next day, getting my petition signed by all who were disposed. Among others who signed it was a Mr. Brown, who was then editing a paper there. He also claimed personal acquaintance with the President and gave me two or three letters of introduction to parties in New York City, and requested me to call on them when I reached the city, saying they would be much pleased to see the Indian chieftains from this country, and that they would assist me in case I needed assistance, which I found to be true.

The second day at the “Soo” the officers from the fort came to me with the inteligence that no delegation of Indians would be allowed to go to Washington without first getting permission from the government to do so, as they had orders to stop and turn back all delegations of Indians that should attempt to come this way en-route to Washington. This was to me a stunner. In what a prediciment I found myself. To give up this trip would be to abandon the last hope of keeping that turbulent spirit of the young warriors within bounds. Now they were peacably inclined and would remain so until our mission should decide their course. They were now living on the hope that our efforts would obtain for them the righting of a grievous wrong, but to return without anything accomplished and with the information that the great father’s officers had turned us back would be to rekindle the fire that was smoldering into an open revolt for revenge. I talked with the officers patiently and long and explained the situation of affairs in the Indian country, and certainly it was no pleasant task for me to undertake, without pay or hope of reward, to take this delegation through, and that I should never have attempted it if I had not considered it necessary to secure the safety of the white settlers in that country, and that although I would not resist an officer or disobey an order of the government, I should go as far as I could with my Indians, and until I was stopped by an officer, then I would simply say to the Indians,

“I am prevented from going further. I have done all I can. I will send you as near home, as I can get conveyances for you, but for the present I shall remain away from that country,”

The officers at the “Soo” finally told me to go on, but they said,

“you will certainly be stopped at some place, probably at Detroit. The Indian agent there and the marshall will certainly oppose your going further.”

More than one Steamer Northerner was on the Great Lakes in 1852. This may have been the one Chief Buffalo’s delegation rode on.
~ Great Lakes Maritime Database

But I was determined to try, and as soon as I could get a boat for Detroit we started. It was the steamer Northerner, and when we landed in Detroit, sure enough, we were met by the Indian agent and told that we could go no further, at any rate until next day, or until he could have a talk with me at his office. He then sent us to a hotel, saying he would see that our bill was paid until next day. About 7:30 that evening I was called to his office and had a little talk with him and the marshall. I stated to them the facts as they existed in the northwest, and our object in going to Washington, and if we were turned back I did not consider that a white man’s life would long be safe in the Indian country, under the present state of excitement; that our returning without seeing the President would start a fire that would not soon be quenched. They finally consented to my passing as they hardly thought they could afford to arrest me, considering the petitions I had and the circumstances I had related.

“But,” they also added, “we do not think you will ever reach Washington with your delegation.”

I thanked them for allowing us to proceed and the next morning sailed for Buffalo, where we made close connections with the first railroad cars any of us had ever seen and proceeded to Albany, at which place we took the Steamer Mayflower, I think. At any rate the boat we took was burned the same season and was commanded by Capt. St. John.

Lecture Room (theater) at Barnum’s American Museum circa 1853.
~ Commons.Wikimedia.org

We landed in New York City without mishap and I had just and only one ten-cent silver piece of money left. By giving the ‘bus driver some Indian trinkets I persuaded him to haul the party and baggage to the American House, which then stood a block or so from Barnum’s Theatre. Here I told the landlord of my financial embarrassment and that we must stay over night at any rate and in some way the necessary money to pay the bill should be raised. I found this landlord a prince of good fellows and was always glad that I met him. I told him of the letters I had to parties in the city and should I fail in getting assistance from them I should exhibit my fellows and in this way raise the necessary funds to pay my bill and carry us to our destination. He thought the scheme a good one, and that himself and me were just the ones to carry it out. Immediately after supper I started out in search of the parties to whom I had letters of introduction, and with the landlord’s help in giving me directions, I soon found one of them, a stock broker, whose name I cannot remember, or the street on which he lived. He returned with me to the hotel, and after looking the Indians over, he said,

“You are all right. Stay where you are and I will see that you have money to carry you through.”

The next day I put the Indians on exhibition at the hotel, and a great many people came to see them, most of whom contributed freely to the fund to carry us to our destination. On the second evening of the exhibition this stock broker came with his wife to the show, and upon taking his leave, invited me to bring the delegation to his house the next afternoon, where a number of ladies of their acquaintance could see them without the embarrassment they would feel at the show room. To this I assented, and the landlord being present, said he would assist by furnishing tho conveyance. But when the ‘bus was brought up in front of the house the next day for the purpose of taking the Indians aboard, the crowd became so dense that it was found impossible to get them into it, and it was with some difficulty that they were gotten back to their room. We saw it would not be possible to get them across the city on foot or by any method yet devised. I despatched a note to the broker stating how matters stood, and in less than half an hour himself and wife were at the hotel, and the ready wit of this little lady soon had a plan arranged by which the Indians could be safely taken from the house and to her home without detection or annoyance. The plan was to postpone the supper she had arranged for in the afternoon until evening, and that after dark the ‘bus could be placed in the alley back of the hotel and the Indians got into it without being observed. The plan was carefully carried out by the landlord. The crowd was frustrated and by 9 p. m. we were whirling through the streets with shaded ‘bus windows to the home of the broker, which we reached without any interruption, and were met at the door by the little lady whose tact had made the visit possible, and I hope she may now be living to read this account of that visit, which was nearly thirty-nine years ago. We found some thirty or forty young people present to see us, and I think a few old persons. The supper was prepared and all were anxious to see the red men of the forest at a white man’s table. You can imagine my own feelings on this occasion, for, like the Indians, I had been brought up in a wilderness, entirely unaccustomed to the society of refined and educated people, and here I was surrounded by them and the luxuries of a finished home, and with the conduct of my wards to be accounted for, I was forced to an awkward apology, which was, however, received with that graciousness of manner that made me feel almost at home. Being thus assured and advised that our visit was contemplated for the purpose of seeing us as nearly in our native ways and customs as was possible, and that no offense would be taken at any breach of etiquette, but, on the contrary, they should be highly gratified if we would proceed in all things as was our habit in the wilderness, and the hostess, addressing me, said it was the wish of those present that in eating their supper the Indians would conform strictly to their home habits, to insure which, as supper was then being put in readiness for them, I told the Indians that when the meal had been set before them on the table, they should rise up and pushing their chairs back, seat themselves upon the floor, taking with them only the plate of food and the knife. They did this nicely, and the meal was taken in true Indian style, much to the gratification of the assemblage. When the meal was completed each man placed his knife and plate back upon the table, and, moving back towards the walls of the room, seated himself upon the floor in true Indian fashion.

As the party had now seen enough to furnish them with tea table chat, they ate their supper and after they had finished requested a speech from the Indians, at least that each one should say something that they might hear and which I could interpret to the party. Chief O-sha-ga spoke first, thanking the people for their kindness. Buffalo came next and said he was getting old and was much impressed by the manner of white people and showed considerable feeling at the nice way in which they had been treated there and generally upon the route.

Our hostess, seeing that I spoke the language fluently, requested that I make them a speech in the Chippewa tongue. To do this so they would understand it best I told them a story in the Indian tongue. It was a little story about a monkey which I had often told the Indians at home and it was a fable that always caused great merriment among them, for a monkey was, in their estimation, the cutest and most wonderful creature in the world, an opinion which they hold to the present time. This speech proved to be the hit of the evening, for I had no sooner commenced (though my conversation was directed to the white people), than the Indians began to laugh and cut up all manner of pranks, which, combined with the ludicrousness of the story itself, caused a general uproar of laughter by all present and once, if never again, the fashionably dressed and beautiful ladies of New York City vied with each other and with the dusky aborigines of the west in trying to show which one of all enjoyed best the festivities. The rest of the evening and until about two o’clock next morning was spent in answering questions about our western home and its people, when we returned to the hotel pleased and happy over the evening’s entertainment.

To be continued in Chapter II

By Amorin Mello

Selected letters of the Joel Allen Barber Papers 

… continued from the Fall of 1856.


Sandusky Dec 22nd 1856

My dear Son

You will see by date of this letter, that I have progressed somewhat towards home.

Ironton was the Barbers’ town-site claim, located near the Mouth of the Montreal, where Augustus Barber died.
James_Meacham

Portrait of U.S. Representative James Meacham from the History of the Town of Middlebury: In the Country of Addison, Vermont by Samuel Swift, 1859, after page 388.  “Much to my astonishment I now find that Mr Meacham is a habitual private tippler and is often such a condition from drink as to occasion general notice and remark […] Is it not wonderful our state has had a long list of such members, Mallory, Nole, Buck, Phelps, &c.” from 1856 letter in the University of Vermont Libraries’ Center for Digital Initiative.

Alvah_Sabin

U.S. Representative Alvah Sabin was mentioned earlier in the Barber Papers during the Spring and Summer of 1855. ~ Eighty-Three Years a Servant, or, the Life of Rev. Alvah Sabin by Alvah Sabin Hobart, 1885

I left Lancaster in company with E. D. Lowry for Galena last Wednesday morning & on getting to Galena found that the cars had not run for 5 days on account of snow, but they got in toward morning & at 9 AM I started & only got through to Chicago next day at night, when not running we were in snow drifts.  I arrived here Saturday evening & am having a very comfortable visit with your Uncle’s family.  Shall leave at 7 tonight for the East & shall make all speed for Vermont.  Your Uncle’s folks are looking for Jay house tomorrow night to spend the holiday & then return again.  There is something in the Tribune of last week concerning the termination of the Eastern RailRoad on the Northern boundary & laying it down as pretty certain that the road would be carried to the Mouth of Montreal River.  If I can find the paper before mailing this, I will send you the article, & did I know that the road would be run to your town I would take all possible means to apprise you of the fact so that you might not dispose of your interest in the great haste.  If you have sold none, when this reaches you, I trust you will act in reference to the above information, and I would advise you to keep dark, till further advice, & as fast as I can learn anything relative to your interests I will communicate the same to you.  I have heard nothing from you yet, since parting with you at La Pointe, but hope to get letters from you when I get home.  I have left money with Cyrus to pay your taxes, & will have him pay on Jo’s.  Tell Mr. Wheeler, that I have learned the trouble concerning Hon Jas. Meacham that he & I talked about at his house.  He had become a confirmed & miserable drunkard & drank himself out of the world.  This is from one of his colleagues Hon A. Sabin, and is but too true.

Reverend Leonard Wheeler & Government Carpenter John Stoddard lived at the Gardens.

Give my last respects to Mr. Wheeler & family also to Mr. & Mrs. Stoddard & tell them that I have not escaped a hard winter as [?????? ?????? ??????] but do not fear starvation like I did on L. Superior.

The Barber brothers’ original contract for the previous winter’s survey of the Apostle Islands was not recognized by the General Land Office Records.

I expect you are all buried in deep snows by this time, so that you can do nothing at Surveying.  The Snow was 2 ft deep at Lancaster when I left, but it rained all day Friday like July Showers & the ground is entirely bare about this place.  Her Bay is frozen over.  Keep a strict acct of all the expense of resurveying on the last winters contract, if you get a new one & undertake it, as I am informed that I can get relief from Congress by a special act, paying me all that it will cost to do the work over again, which will be as much for you interest as anybody’s of this please say nothing to any one.

Now My dear Son I again implore you to be careful of your life & health.  Do provide yourself with enough to make yourself comfortable & easy & above all good warm clothing & bedding, be careful of exposing yourself, where you there is danger of being lost & freezing, or of getting through the ice.  Do my son heed the requests of your parents & only brother who feel more interest for you than you are aware of, & who are in hopes to yet enjoy your society in a more genial soil & climate.

Chlorastrolite, aka Isle Royale  Greenstone, is associated with Lake Superior copper deposits, and can found in copper mine waste rock piles and Lake Superior  beaches.  Chlorastrolite was first reported by C. T. Jackson and J. D. Whitney in 1847.
Joseph Alcorn‘s gemstone demonstrates a strong bond between the Alcorn and Barber families.

I think that one visit to Lancaster will be sufficient to wean you from the frozen, famine stricken, regions around the Great Lake.  I overhauled my agates yesterday giving lots of them to the children, also specimens &c.  I gave them some chrorastrolites & shall give them some more.  They prize them very high.  The stone that Jo gave Lucy & she to your Uncle, has been cut & set in two rings. 1 for Aunt Em & 1 for Lina…  Aunt E’s ring cost $12.00 besides the stone.  It is a splendid affair.

Do write as often as you can, for be assured that your letters will be always joyfully rec’d & read by your parents & Hiram.

Farewell my dear Son & may God preserve your life & health

G. A. Barber

Respect to the boys.


Cambridge Dec 29th 1856

My dear Son

It is now about 2 months since I left you at La Pointe, since which time I have not heard one word from you, whether you were in the land of the living, or had got cast away on your journey to Montreal River.  I was very anxious to get intelligence from you while at Lancaster & could not feel reconciled to come away till I had heard from you.  But having left directions with our friends there to forward your letters, if any came, to me.  I finally ventured to start for Vermont.  I stopped over 48 hours at Sandusky, & wrote you from there, on matters pertaining to Ironton, which will reach you long before this does.  If you have not sold any shares, it would be best to rest easy till you see how the matter turns, but if the road is likely to terminate at the Mouth of Montreal River, some shark will be after all the shares he can get, & at the lowest prices.  I left Sandusky Monday night (22nd) at 7, was in Buffalo at 7 next morning & Albany at 10 P.M.  Rutland at [morn?] Wednesday.  Called on Mrs. Temple & Nancy Green, got to Burlington at 8 P.M. on the 24th & home on Christmas at sunset, found all well and tired out with looking for me.  Every thing looks as natural as ever, except that our Prairies are more rolling & the bottoms greatly shrunken in dimensions.

“In the spring of 1856 [Albe Burge Whiting] set out, traveling by railroad as far as St. Louis, and there took a boat which took him to Westport Landing, now Kansas City.
[…]
Mr. Whiting had a partner, B. E. Fullington, an honest, God-fearing, upright man, and their plan was to engage in farming–raising corn for the Government post at Fort Riley. Mr. Fullington soon became disgusted with the meager success that attended their efforts, and after one season returned East, leaving Mr. Whiting to conduct the business. Mr. Fullington agreed to furnish the capital while Mr. Whiting was to manage the business connected with the partnership. But Kansas looked better to Mr. Fullington after he got to Vermont and he came back the next spring to spend a long and useful life here.”
A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans by William E. Connelley, 1918, transcribed by Baxter Springs Middle School students, 1997.

While on the platform at Essex Junction, who should I run into again? but Mr. Bradly & Fullington direct from Kansas when he left Albe!  Left him well, on the land they had claimed, another man a neighbor had gone into the shanty with Albe to [book/back?] it together this winter, & take care of their cattle

Matters are more quiet there now.  Gov. Geary proves a better man than was anticipated.  Prospects for Terr. Kansas are brightening.  I sent you the message of the infamous Frank Pierce, from Lancaster, & hope your patience permitted you to read it through.  Still it is the meanest vilest paper that ever emanated from our Government and will go down to posterity with its author excerated by all good & honest persons.  Folks are well around.  Levi & Oscar were here last night till after 9.  Of course I gave them some specimens of copper, agates &c.  Mary Buck from Galesburgh Ill. sister to Mrs. Kingsbury keeps the school, from 6 to 10 scholars, & enough for such a “marm.”  Ed. Bryant teaches the best school at the Center.  Pat Coldwell is in a Store at Waterbury.  Dr. C.L. Fisher is teaching in Johnson.  Helen Whiting is about going to “Kaintucky” to teach in a family.  I do not mean of her own, but in a private school.

Bradley Fullington

~ Collections of the Kansas State Historical Society, Volume 12, by Kansas State Historical Society, page 119.

I am going to Johnson to day & must be brief but will perhaps do better another time.  If mails are regular you will get as many as one letter per week, while I have ability to scribble for I have learned by experience how good it seems to have letters from “friends & sacred home.”  Again I caution you to take care of yourself, you can read my back letters for particulars.  Your mother will write soon now when she knows where you are, & I will make Amherst do likewise.

Your affectionate father

G. A. Barber


[ca. 1856]

My Dear Son.

I hardly know whether to write again to you before hearing or knowing something of your situation.

It seems too much like writing to the dear departed.  But I know that if it were possible you would have sent us news of your self before now.  I feel assured that it is not your fault that we do not get letters.

I often imagine you shut in from the world by deep snows – perhaps you and your party frozen – disabled from work or even from the use of the pen.  But the thought of the good Christian Missionary near you makes me hope that you would not be allowed to perish with cold or hunger and that, should any great misfortune happens to you he would inform us of it.  How very long and tedious must the winter have been to you all and how often the vainly have I wished you had complied with our wishes and returned to spend the winter at home.  Oh!  How much more pleasure and comfort might we all have then.

I mentioned in a former letter my wish to go to Lan. next summer and my great desire to meet you there.  I do not know that I will take the trouble and incur the expense of such a journey if I must come back without seeing you, so do not let me be disappointed.  If you will If I felt sure that you would meet me there and would return with us to spend next winter I should feel that I had something to live for.  But the thought of going there and returning to live in this old, desolate, neglected, forsaken looking place without you, with no prospect if there ever being any improvement in its appearance under the present administration makes me quite indifferent to life.  I am very sorry that we cannot get another woman here – one who would be agreeable and friendly with me, or whom I could confide in as a good and honest dairy woman.  I should then feel quite satisfied to leave the business with her, and less unwilling to return again.  But your father will not let any one else come – tho he has had some very good offers.

How I do wish that you would come and live with me and befriend me & I really need to have one friend.

Good night

Mother


Cambridge Jan 6th 1857

Dear Son

I have determined to wait in hopes to hear from you, before writing back again.  It really seems strange, that we do not get something from you in all this long time, your last being dated Nov-.  Your Mother & I wrote repeatedly while at Sandusky & I hope you get the letters, but why do I not get something from you?

Barber’s contract with the General Land Office to survey the LaPointe Indian Reservation was started during the Fall of 1856.

I am extremely anxious to know how you are & how you are getting along this winter, whether you have yet recd that long expected draft & whether you have done anything at surveying the Indian Reservation whether you are boarding at Mr Maddock’s yet, or what you are doing & have spending the long & hard winter.  The date of this will show you that I have once more got home, and am now a dweller among the G. Mountains.

After being at your Uncle’s in Sandusky 10 weeks and I had so far recovered that I could walk across the river your Mother was away to have me start for home & I was hurried away before I was sufficiently strong to endure the fatigues of such a journey.  On Sunday 27th ult I first ventured out of doors Monday 28th was stormy so that I could not go out & yet I had to start Tuesday, or trouble would endear, so I was off and that night at Midnight I was in Buffalo (leaving station at noon).  Left B. at 9 A.M. & was in Albany 10 ½ P.M next Morning started at 7 & was snugly quartered at the Lomied of N.E.N’ Esq on the [????] by the college on Burlington.  My feet & legs [???] badly swollen all the way caused by debility I remained there 2 nights & spent [???????] with them.  Saturday we continued in the stage with [Sen/Tom?] Andrews to the Centre where we [??? ?????? ??? ??????? ???] house unfit to occupy, as his had “Batnies” all over the floor drying your Brother & I went to Mr Wetherby’s (in the Miner house) & stayed till next day when Mr Green brought his woman here & she & Amherst worked at the house while Mr G. went to the centre for your Mother.  I was brought up toward night, and am a close prisoner ever since on account of my swelled legs & lameness but I am free from that infernal pain that troubled me at La Pointe & only feel a soreness in my walking apparature.

I could scarcely believe the fact was so, when I found I could put my legs feet down on the floor without excruciating pain, but I have reason to hope I have seen the last of that tormentor.  My appetite is shrunk so much, my strength is returning & when I shall regain part of my flesh and my legs get sound I shall be nearly as good as new.  I was reduced almost to a shadow by the “little gobbel,” but they did not make me any sicker than before as the Allopathic Medicines would have done.  Their effect was produced silently, and though I was run down pretty low & weak I at no time felt any distressing sickness save in my legs till I imprudently ate too many preserved tomatoes that distressed me 2 or 4 days.  But my greatest gratification was to get Amherst home with me once more, after he had been a wanderer & outcast for months in his own neighborhood.  We found him living at Griswold’s where he was enjoying himself tolerably well & was useful about the storm & handed &c.  He was all [?????] at our [????] house by the shore [devil?] that [punished?] in the [Kitchen?]

He always found a welcome at Atwood’s & was urged to stay there & too at [Supuien’s?] but Mrs P. in the woods wanted take paints to make him understand that they did not want him to consume much of their grub, I always knew she was a stingy old satan & now I think I shall request her whenever a good opportunity offers.  I think he was as glad to see us, as we to see him, & that we will take as much solid comfort together as the nature of the case will present.

7th

I shall look earnestly for a letter from you till I get one & though my letters may be a long time in reaching you I shall keep a stream of them running to your country that you may have something once in a while to refresh your memory of home and those so dear to you who are now sojourning here.  There have been but few changes by death or marriage that I hear of since my leaving last spring.  I wrote to you of the death of Mr Chase Old Mr John Safford died in Dec aged 92 years & old Mrs Darker also very aged.  David Griswold & Mary Ann Chadwick were yoked at Christmas.  I do not hear of any others in town, who have got married, that you know, but I will tell you if your patience will permit, a little something of one Rodney [Casde?] whom you will recollect.  He was living with [Gad?] on the Mirriam farm & by chance became enamored of [Clena?] Scott & she as much of him, they were thick, & had the time set for marriage, but she finding some of his great [fertensing?], doubtful, flared up & was off entirely, whereupon he threatened 1st to go to her door & spill his heart blood on the door stones, next he threatened a suit for breach of promise, went down to Burlington to consult Lawyers & Morrisville & finally gave it up and fizzled out.

The poor boy is doubly consorted since, for he has got religious & been baptised into the Methodist Church, and has at last got married to somebody in Stowe. The tragedy is all over.

Major John S Watrous was formerly the Indian Agent from the Sandy Lake Tragedy and failed Ojibwe Removal.  Watrous was now the final Speaker of the Minnesota Territory House of Representatives,  Minnesota was granted statehood.

Major Watrous, Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives, was in the cars with me from Sandusky to Cleveland & from him I heard some things from the great Lake later than I had formerly known.  He was on his way to Washington, having his chair temporarily filled during his absence.  He is dead against old Buchanan & his southern Masters on the Kansas question & probably uttered the sentiment of the party in the territory.

The winter except a few days of the latter part of Nov that were unusually severe has been remarkably mild with no snow to do any good till Jan 1st.  There is now a sufficient quantity of 8 or 10 in. & sleighing is 1st rate so that there are from 50 to 100 sleighs whirling by us daily, without giving us a chance to see their pretty faces, or knowing them.  Your Mother is more than ever troubled & careful about many things, nothing suits.  She says we are the poorest off of any family in town except Ed Davis’ folks, she wants to stay here & not have the farm let another year, but you know she is for lack of strength & power of endurance wholly uncapably of carrying on the dairy & there is not much prospect of my being capable of much labor.  Dow is the best tenant after all that we can get, if I find him honest when I settle with him but his wife is a (but his wife is a) little tough and withal “narrow” home there can be that little peace in the funerals department of the house.

Amherst has promised to write something to go with this.

I remain your affectionate father

Giles A. Barber

Do write often about yourself your affairs & about everything that will interest me

Give my respects to all friends
Especially to Mr Maddocks


Cambridge Jan 10th Saturday night 1857

My Dear Son

Contrary to my intention, I have let slip One Sunday without writing to you.  My excuse for it is just this Your Uncle & Aunt Burr were here over Sunday and I could really find no very good time to write.  But I will make amends as far as I can by being more punctual in future.  We are all three quite well, have removed our quarters from the west room to the East room which as well as the west room is now papered and looks com-fort-a-ble.

Since I got home Dow has killed one 5.00 lbs [quarter?] & sold it at 8 ½ $42.50 & the Alcorn Cow very fat, & I wish you & your party had part of it instead of your everlasting “salt [rusty?] pork”.  We sold 812 ½ bs Butter this week at 21 ¢ & yesterday I sold our oxen that we have had so long for $140.00 to be delivered tomorrow morning.

secondstatehousebeforeafter

The second Vermont State House before and after the fire. “However, on the night of January 6, 1857, disaster struck. A special session to revise the Vermont Constitution had been scheduled for the following day. The stove was loaded with wood and left to warm the building before the legislators arrived the next morning. By evening the stove became so hot that the timbers near it caught fire. The flames quickly spread to the rest of the capitol destroying all but the granite sections.” ~ Vermont Historical Society

The State House at Montpelier was burned down last Tuesday.  The fire taking around the furnace & getting such hold that all efforts to save the edifice were unavailing.  The Library & State archives & most of the furniture were saved, the walls are not badly injured.  The House was being warmed up for the constitutional Convention which was to occupy the Representatives Hall the next day, but they have gone into the Court House to hold their session.

Sunday 11th

Reverend James Peet and Reverend William Augustus McCorkle established churches in Superior City.

I have not been to any meeting since leaving Superior where I enjoyed the labors of brothers Peet and McCorkle.  Did think of going to day to hear Mr Whitney an old Methodist man who preached here some years ago, but finally concluded it would not pay.  Rebellions are the order of the day & they are trying hard to inaugurate one at the Centre, but I believe without any success thus far.  They are doing a tolerable business at the Borough & at Johnson.

“Old Benton” may have been Samuel Slade Benton (1777-1857).

They have tried their best for some weeks, have secured Old Man Daniels and made Sissy Hunt snivel once or twice.  Old Benton says they can never make a one horse rebellion do anything in Johnson, & I am of nearly the same mind.  The fact is, the people, (I mean those of any mind, at all) are becoming every year more loyal, & less liable to be excited to meeting  & open rebellion.  Mother finds fault with what I am here said about revival.  I do not wish to be understood as discarding all religious notions whatever, far from it.  I feel that we are called upon every moment of our lives for deep heartfelt gratitude to the great Author of our existence who crowns our lives with the richest blessings, that to feel our dependence upon him & realize that it is from him that we receive all, every comfort, and all that we have, & do toward our fellow men as we would wish to have them do unto us.  This I say in my opinion is, as good religion to live by as any of their newly patented article, obtained at modern rebellions & I cannot but think it will be much better to light our feet through the dark valley that we must all pass, sooner or later.

Of all the profession of religion, especially men, How many are there, who by their deal with their neighbors, or their every day walk, would evince any superiority of Character or better show for happiness hereafter than the calm stoid person who adores his God and submits himself & all he has into his care & keeping?  Amherst has just returned from Meeting & says he read in a Montpelier paper that the collection of the State Naturalist was destroyed, but it was thought that the House could be rebuilt by filling up the inside, walls all good.  I went to the Borough yesterday and sat as sole referee in a case between Jonas Gobs & school district & also between S. Stratton Jr & same, did not decide as there were 2 law questions involved in such case & I wanted time to look it over.

Agates, chlorastrolites, copper, and other mineral specimens from Wisconsin copper deposits along Lake Superior were collected by the Barber family before or during 1856.  These specimens were gifted throughout New England to promote the Barber’s mineral and land speculations.

The winter has been pretty severe in Vermont thus far, down to 20* & 24* below zero.  There is not much snow in the fields.  The ground all covering but not deep.  Sleighing good as ever was.  Went up to Johnson last Monday & staid at Judge Tom’s over night & had B.E. Fullington told his story about Kansas to a crowded room (the Valley).  Col Ferner, Col Stoddard, Tom Baker, Judge Caldwell & old Homer teased him with foolish questions, & would have kept him on the stand all night if they could, to learn whether wild game were plenty, whether [frungh him?] grow well & [??] the ladies were contented &c &c.  Mr F. thinks Kansas will be free in any confident it will be so.  I presented Herman’s wife with the handsomest Chorastrolite. I brought home with me the little fine spackled one that had a ball on the backside & I gave Aunt Ellen a very nice one both on condition that this would get them set in rings.  I gave your Aunt Martha her [???] in all but one  sent some to the little girls with some agates.  I saw the stone out & set that Jo gave to your Aunt Lucy, & it is the right ring I have seen.  I made up a package of specimens & sent up to the old Dr last week but have heard nothing from him.

Amherst is in extacy with his Embroidered Shirt & wears it all the time & to all places, Meeting, Lycum, & to work in every day.  I have bought materials for another  he will soon long rejoice in a pair of them.

The school is rather a feeble concern in our district this winter.

Kept (I cannot say taught) by a Miss Buck sister to Mrs Kingsbury on the Wetherby farm.  Attendance of Scholars from 2 to 7 or 5.  By the way we have some excellent neighbors Mr & Mrs K. both young and better mates for you & Am than for old people.  Miss Buck’s folks at the foot of the hill are also very good neighbors so your mother says.  At Old Grim farm there is Lucy & her 4 boys.  Mr Green is on his place but is going off it, having let it out.  Dow wants this place again.

Have just had a good supper of hogs face with we could have had you to make even our number.  Oh Allen I will not answer to how you remain up in that miserable frozen region longer than till you can so arrange your affairs so as to get away advantageously.

This incident was the second of four times that the propeller “Old Manhattan” sank on the Great Lakes during the 1850s.
The November 9th letter featured the shipwreck of the sidewheel steamboat Superior, at the base of Spray Falls at Pictured Rocks.  The Superior was carrying survey supplies for Joel Allen Barber and George Riley Stuntz to survey the LaPointe Indian Reservation.

Your mother in constant alarm about you, at times thinking you gone to join our dear lost Augustus & no more to bless us with with your presence here, but to day she has prepared 4 blinds for you & your comrades to wear in the gloom of Feb & March.  We got a short letter from you dated Nov 9th saying that you & 4 others were to start that day for your work on Bad River.  I saw by the papers that the Old Manhattan was wrecked on one of the piers at the mouth of the Harbor in Cleveland, total loss.  This makes two of your regular boats of the 3 that used to churn the sight of the dwellers of Lake Superior now gone to ruin.  ([????]) I saw that among the saved on the Superior was a Foster.  I suppose the young surveyor you & I conversed with on our passage down to La Pointe.  But there was a [??????] Foster lost whether wife, or sister to him or none related I knew not.  I am going to send you a paper – when I can get one.  I now send you Life Illustrated, this letter one from Amherst for this time.  Hope to do better thereafter.  I think it would be condusive to the interests of us all to sell the farm & place a good share of the proceeds at interest in Wisconsin.  What say you?  Do you want to come & help carry it on?  The Secretary of the Interior recommends that the clauses for the graduation law requiring residence on the land be reproofed, which if done, will be all in your favor.  I shall watch the Tribune eagerly for anything interesting to you & communicate all valuable information immediately.

Do my dear son be careful & prudent, father G.A. Barber

My respects to the boys, Mr Wheeler’s & Mr Stoddard’s families.

Write.


Cambridge Jan 18th 1857

My dear Son

Since writing you last Sunday I have recd two letters from you, one dated Nov 9th directed to me at Lancaster & forwarded by father & the other dated Nov 22nd directed to your mother.  You may bet high that your letters were gladly recd & that our minds were much easier about you than before.  Still we should feel much better, were you here with us, to have a good warm bed to sleep on, and enough of the best that Vermont produces to satisfy your appetite, and with all the genial influence of our eastern society that I should think in some respects preferable to the general run of society about L. Superior.  Still further there are rebellions in progress on all sides of us, and an interest in some of them would be quite an item in the adventures of the east over the west.  They have broken out considerably with it at the centre, but I fear the infection is not genuine, and that it will not result in anything very good.  They have got enough to talk in meeting so far as this “if there is anything on religion I am determined to get it” &c.  Elias C. & wife & Mrs F. Wetherby and some others have had something to say, & the Minister has labored very hard to get all creation on his anxious seats.  Mad. Heath is on tiptoe among them, almost an apostle.  I went down yesterday to the Borough to give my decision in an arbitration, carried your mother down to Thode’s where we staid all night & went to Meeting to day A.M. to Meth. Chapel P.M. to Cong. House. They are getting hot among the Methodists & trying to do something judging from the groans & grunts of one of the ministers while the other was hoping rumbling the howls of distressed or enraged wild animals.

John Chase got home yesterday from California have not seen him, but understand that he talks of going back again in March.  Did you ever hear what Emily Ellsworth did with herself?  I never heard till a few days ago that she married a Doran one of the [Paddis?] out in “Senate Ireland” nearly two years ago.

I have got the watch repaired by Scott, who says it is now as good as ever it was.  I would be glad if I could get it into your hands.  Furs are monstrous dear this winter as you have doubtless seen by the papers.  Mink skins [Prim?] are worth $4.00 a piece.  Muskrat from 10 ¢ to 20 ¢.  Martins must be worth $5.00 or $6.00.  How if you had the [Shonis?] to purchase some furs this winter & spring you might buy some at prices that would pay you a good sound profit.  I have no doubt but you could get Sable for 1.50 to 2.00 & mink for 1.00.  Otter skins are generally called about here $1.00 per foot measuring from the nose to the end of the tail.  They ought to be cheaper there.

Our district school wound up yesterday for want of scholars having had but 2 the last week.  Julius G. & Martin P. & in day Julius alone.  The teacher was the greatest failure of all.

We are getting very cold weather about now, but how cold I cannot say, as our thermometer has got broken by your Mother’s hanging it up on the side of the house for the wind to blow down, instead of hanging it inside the door casing where I had kept it so long.  I feel lost without it & shall get one when I go down to St Albans which will probably be within one or two weeks.  Think to day the coldest of the winter so far, at any rate it was cold enough for comfort coming up from Thode’s to night.

Monday Morning Jan 19th 1857

We are having a great snow storm to day, so thick as to make it quite dark.

We are all well, living very com-fort-a-ble in our close quarters & expect to be more so soon for I got 5 new curtains Saturday & you know they are always essential.

Your Mother says you must get some kind of fur and cover your mittens & also fur as much as you can to keep out the pinching frost.  I am afraid you will suffer for clothes socks &c (by the way, you had better save the tops of all your socks, that are new and good down as far as they are good & have them footed up again & if you are short for yarn to mend with you can ravel some).  The Stage will be here soon & I must close.

Have I told you that Charley Turner & Helen Sabin are married?  Even so, & they are in [clover?].

Give my respects to the boys & you may rest assured of my eternal regard and paternal solicitude.

Giles A. Barber


Cambridge Jan 26th 1857

My dear Son

The Rebellion at the Centre was a split among religious and political society in Vermont.  No public records have been identified.

I wrote you yesterday one good long letter & because there was something in it about the 1 horse “Rebellion” at the Centre and some other things to tedious to mention your Mother destroyed it last night after I went to bed.  So I have to repair the damage as well as I can this morning, but writing in such a hurry I cannot think of half I want to write, & shall only send you a small apology for a letter this time.  I have suffered much in my mind on your account for a few days, fearing that you & your party must have undergone great distress from cold weather.  It has been colder within a few days than ever before known in Cambridge.  At 11 o’clock last Friday night the mercury was at 40* below 0, next Morning at 38* below.  And you may be assured I should have felt much better if you had been at home with us in good quarters.  Oh Allen I hope you will not find it necessary to spend another winter in that region of frost and famine, but will spend your winters henceforth in a country of more genial in climate, society, & Grub.

If I were assured of our safety from freezing & suffering for want of clothing, blankets, or provisions, I should rest much easier about you than I now do.  Still I know you are in a party of good fellows & in the midst of kind friends who will be ready to befriend you.

Everything remains about as usual in Cambridge.  On the whole I think the town about holds its own.  The dairymen are growing rich on the high prices that Butter & Cheese are selling for, & well they may.  Dr Safford has sold $150.00 worth of Butter from 3 cows & supplied his family with Milk & Butter beside.  H. Montague at North Bend has realized $50. per head from his cows (20) but to make this out he counts his calves, & [Pork?] made from the dairy. Our dairy has done better this season than ever before but as I have not settled with Dow I cannot yet state the nett proceeds.

The rebels convicted are as yet only two, Mr.s E Chadwick & George Reynolds, they have a few more on trial, & are seeking indictments against lots of others.  Mr Dow takes this & will probably mail it at Richmond so do not think strange of that.  I wish to say one word of Amherst.  He is at home & does not much, but chops all the wood we burn, runs about to mill & too meeting.

He is attending the Lycum at the Centre & writes some very good pieces for them which exercises I think worth a good deal to him.  He grows like a weed & will soon be as large as you.  I persuaded him to write to you, as you will see if the letter soon reaches you.  I had nearly forgotten to tell you that we are all well, living cozily in the East Room secure from cold & hunger, & only wanting your presence to enable us to feel quite at home again.  I said wrong.  There is one gone from us forever in the world.  I cannot yet feel as though any place was home so long as he is gone.  But my time is up and I must close by writing you, health & prosperity.

G.A.B.


Cambridge Feb 1st 1857

Dear Son

Another Sunday gives me an opportunity to sit down to give you a brief narration of things transpiring in this outer world.  Though you will see that nothing really worth mentioning occurs from week to week, yet to you who are without the visible world & the pale of comparison almost any thing from the old home of your childhood will be interesting.  Within the past week the weather has been much milder & even quite pleasant till yesterday, when we had a terrific storm of wind & snow, but from what quarter I could not determine, as the wind blew all ways. The roads are all full & traveling almost suspended.  Amherst & I got all ready to go to St. Albans but the storm increased so fast that we did not start, so we went over & staid with Oscar till this morning & I went down & made Mr Heath a visit, found him just as he was one year ago, unable to speak except in a low whisper, says he under goes much pain in the region of the heart.  I went to see Uncle Enoch, how he progressed in the divine life, for there has been a desperate effort made to enlist him on the side of “the Lord” & much said about his being in deep distress &c &c found no changes, except that he is ready to talk candidly & give his views on religious matters.

Our last letter from you was dated Nov 22nd & we are growing very uneasy at not hearing anything from you in all this long time & especially when we consider what an awful cold winter we are having.  Oh Allen my heart is pained when I think of you at times, when the sky is convulsed with storms & when it is so cold that mercury congeals, that you should be up there suffering for aught I know, when you could be so much better off elsewhere.

The Rebellion here blown over, almost a failure.  2 or 3 concerts as they are called & as many backsliders reclaimed, constitutes the amount of damage done to the Kingdom of darkness, rather small potatoes when we consider who have been here at work for the salvation of souls, for we have the word of the good folks that no less a person than the 2nd on the glorious [Frinsty?] has been here for weeks at work, to say nothing of 3 methodist ministers & Luther [Brevoter?].  When will men & women cease to insult the God that made them by their impious & blasphemous fooleries to cheat mortals into this or that church under the specious pretext of saving their souls.

“Kinni Butch” may be a variety of Kinnikinnick; a blend of herbal medicines used for social and ceremonial purposes in Anishinaabe culture.

Marm says of this last sentence, that it shows that I am in a some what excited state or I would not write to you so much on the subject.  Kinni butch, I do not know how to spell this word, but you do, but I claim to be tolerably free from believing & falling in with every new thing that comes nor am I greatly given to running after every new minister, lecturer, or concert singer that happens to favor the world with their marvellous works.  “Oh the folly of Sinners” & (I wish Saints were wholly divested of the article) I was up in Johnson last Wednesday, saw some of the old familiar faces. There are some sick, more in that village now than in La Pointe & Douglas Counties in 6 months, & yet when the west is mentioned a Johnsonian will start with alarm at the bare thought or name of so sickly a place.  Mrs Tracy is soon to wind up her pilgrimage, (consumption).  She had been sick, was getting smart, a girl in the house, broke a [flaid?] lamp, set her clothes on fire, Mr & Mrs T. got their hands burned in putting out the fire.  Mrs T. held hers in cold water all night, & took such a cold that she must die in consequence.  Poor Helen Pillsbury whose health has not been the finest for 2 years, was still able to work & keep about her usual [????tions], till this winter feeling it her duty to “come up to the help of the Lord against the mighty” in their feeble rebellion.  She overdid herself or exposed her health, so that it is found that her life will be the penalty.  Poor Girl, she is going as I fear the way of Merrill & Mary, & yet that damnable, mean, thievish help “Vet” must live to be a curse to his parents & to the world.

Portrait of Uncle Joel Allen Barber

Joel Allen Barber’s uncle U.S. Representative Joel Allen Barber was a member of the State Senate in 1856-57.

It is an economy of Providence that I cannot comprehend why such persons who bid fair for usefulness in the world, who are a pride & blessing to their friends & all who know them should be removed from this world, while others who are a pest to their friends & the world & not worth the powder to shoot them, should remain as secure, as though death could not reach them.  But God knows, & perhaps we may hereafter, understand what to us now appears so dark and mysterious.  I see by the Tribune that your Uncle Allen was not elected U.S. Senator, but J.R. Doolittle was.  I know not whether I wrote to you what your Grand father wrote about your Uncle, that he was going to take Thode Burr to Madison with him & get him a place as assistant Clerk if he could, & further that he (Father) was afraid that Allen would never get home alive, his health was such, but I should have more hopes of him while there than when at home, for he would be more likely to do something for himself & get better Medical advice.  I hope he will do something in season.  Amherst & I shall go to St Albans to morrow or next day & stay a day or two & make a call or two on the way in Georgia & Fairfax.  I expect Mr Burr is going to Lancaster this month, to determine upon his future course whether to finally go there to reside & go into business, or to give up all thoughts of it, and settle himself down quietly in this country for woe or weal.

It is yet a matter of uncertainty what I shall do with the farm another year.  Dow wants it another year & in some respects he is as good a man as I can get, and on some accounts he is quite objectionable.  He is a very industrious man & a good hand to take care of the stock, make pork &c his wife is not 1st rate for Butter & cheese, but middling.  Dow is too much disposed to [skin?] the farm, or keep, more land under the place than can be manured & is rather too tight & [fizzish?] while his woman is quite & altogether too much so besides your Mother & she have been at variance almost through the entire year, & in this case I think Mrs. D was very much in the wrong, & that she is a little stingy nervous, wilful jade.  It would be idle to think of ever living in the house with them another year.

Think some of hiring a good Man & girl & carrying on the whole ourselves.  This is your Mother’s notion but I have before now heard her declare that she would not be burdened with the care of so much work.  I would so far as I am concerned rather sell the farm cows & all and go to Lancaster to live on our little farm, where our dear Augustus did so much to make it valuable & attractive.  When Offered $35. per acre for the place, I looked at those young apple trees planted by his hands expressly for our advantage & comfort & said to myself that $50. per acre shall not deprive me of it at present.  I shall like to know your mind upon these matters, but of course cannot in season for the coming spring.  I have some thoughts of getting Mr Perry to take the farm if he will do so.  Then I should feel all safe.  Your Mother & Am are drawing a pattern for his embroidered shirt that is now making, & after his is made, you are to have two made.  Am is toasting cheese & stuffing himself with it.  I wish you had a shake in that, as well as your abundance of good fat beef pork sausages, butter & milk.  Oh My Son, I think of you whenever it is cold or stormy, & when I lay me down at night in a warm bed or sit down at home or abroad to a good regular meal of victuals gotten up by the hand of a woman, other than Nancy.

Am is doing quite a business in peeling muskrats, he shot & caught 17 in the fall & sold them for 10 ¢ each.  He has just peeled 3 more & is on the qui vive for more.  They are worth 20 or 25 now.  If I get to St Albans I will start a paper or two off for you, and some for others in your country.

May God bless & preserve you

G. A. Barber


Cambridge Feb 8th 1857

Dear Son

Another Sunday has come around & I am again trying to place on this sheet a few scratches, that you may know that we are all well at home, & that we are not forgetting you our poor exiled son.

The boys surveying the LaPointe Indian Reservation and the Apostle Islands with Joel Allen Barber are:
Joseph Alcorn
William W Ward
Larry Marston
Edward L Baker

We were very glad to receive a letter from you day before yesterday, that had been nearly two months on the passage, dated Dec 13th at Mr Stoddard’s.  We have felt much uneasiness on your account for a long time it has been so very cold, & have been afraid that you must have suffered; but our fears are happily relieved by learning that you are doing so well and survived but such a band of invincibles.  Who could have fears for such a crowd as Jo, William, Larry Marston’s?  I am very happy to add Baker too!  I am really glad to hear Mr. Baker has got back with you again & hope it may be for his advantage, that he braves the perils of another polar winter, & I am confident it will be for yours.  You will see that I was mistaken about your Uncle Allen’s being elected Senator.  But I was not more so than many others.  I see by the Grant Co Herald that there is a bill introduced into Congress, to make good all entries under the Graduation Law without any further requirements, & there is little doubt of its passage.

This will be a good thing for you, if it becomes a law…

augustus young

U.S. Representative Augustus Young ~ Findagrave.com

Amherst & I went down to St Albans last Monday & drove Kitty and got home Friday, had to stay longer than we expected on account of storms, winds, drifts &c found all the folks well at Mr Burr’s.  Went down to the Bay & found all well there but Mr Young, who was quite feeble, but much better than I had expected to find him.  He is now confined to the house during the cold weather, but I should think he might get some better in the spring.  I would like to see him in LaPointe County about two months next spring & witness the effect of that climate on him, & I would see it if he was alive & I were able to take him there.  I carried down some specimens to him that pleased him much.  Little Augustus Stevens is living with Mr Young now & will probably remain with him while he lives.

Uncle Amherst W. willed $100.00 a year to Mr Young during his natural life, and $50.00 a year to your Aunt Betsey as long as she lives.  The rest of his property is given to various benevolent purposes.  The interest of $10,000.00 to the Episcopal Institute at Burlington.  The interest of $1,000.00 to the Brattleborough Insane Asslyum. & the use of remainder principally to support Preaching at East B.  All this is well enough.  If he thought a few thousand could pave the way to heaven, it was his duty to down with the dust when he found he could hold it no longer himself.

Do any portraits of Augustus Barber produced by Merrill & Wilson still exist?

While at St Albans I took the Ambrotype copy that your Aunt Martha had taken from our daguerreotype of Augustus & had a good likeness taken, that I have done up for my Mother & shall send to Morrow also One on Mira that is set in a gold pin for your Mother, one other put up in a case, both good copies, & 10 other copies all ambrotypes one of which I shall enclose in this letter for you, that you can keep till we can furnish you with a larger one in a case.  That Daguerreotype taken by Merrill & Wilson you know was good & these copies are most of them copies are equally so.

Hiram Hayes, a pioneer of Superior, worked his way from Town Clerk to District Attorney and went to Washington D.C. While he was working there at the Census Bureau, the war broke out and he was commissioned a captain and quartermaster.”
~ Zenith City Weekly
Daniel Shaw was the Register officer at the U.S. General Land Office in Superior City.  Eliab B Dean Jr was the Receiver officer working there with Shaw.

I got a letter from Mr Hayes last Friday saying that he had called in November and tendered the 120 acre warrant & $58. in gold to the Land Officer & was told that they would attend to it.  So as to send off the entry in their returns that Month, & again in Dec. he called and wiged repeatedly that it should be done & was all along told that it should be attended to, but at or near Jan 1st when again pressing the subject upon them, he was told that an appeal was taken by the Dutchman and sent to Washington for a hearing there.  This is the state of the case.  I had some little confidence in Mr Shaw as an Officer but but cannot have much now, since he has conducted in such a manner in my Land Suit.  As to E. B. Dean I was always satisfied that he was a d‘d scoundrel any way it could be fixed, & the history of his transactions in Madison goes very far to justify such an opinion.

The Barbers appealed to Washington D.C. from multiple angles to resolve their land claims and surveying contracts with the General Land Office.

I feel as though in duty bound to go to Washington to see to having every thing done there to protect our rights, that can be done, I am fully satisfied that somebody beside the little Dutchman is the person or persons in interest now pushing it up to Washington where they hope by some trick to cheat us out of the Land.  I wrote yesterday to Elder Sabin to have him attend to it for me but he his now Lawyer & may not have time to do anything…  Mr Hayes has written to a Lawyer in Washington but who knows how far a Lawyer in Washington may be trusted, when sure of a fee on one side & perhaps a double one on the other, & there is no doubt, that who ever carries that case to D.C. will have nothing continued to effect his purposes.  I am surprised to find that all that has been done, goes for naught & that the case is yet undated.  Still if I have a fair chance I should not fear, but if there was anything unfair, or any undue advantage being taken, I ought to be there, I suppose it would cost about $40.00 to go.

All is very quiet in the religious world at present.  The rebellion has not amounted to any thing serious after all the noise & confusion in the Saint’s Camp.  Madison Heath is bent on pulling down strongholds and setting up the standard of the Cross, & as one of the first steps in the warfare he & his frau came up & made us a visit last Friday night & undertook to [sumed?] me upon matters of faith, doctrine, &c.  I am thankful for his good intentions, but would prefer to listen to him “after a little” than now, when it is a new thing to him, & he scarce knows what he is about.  We are having a great thaw, the snow is nearly gone in the fields and pretty well done to in the roads.

The river is very high & threatens to break up.

Mr Burr talks of going to Lancaster two weeks from to morrow, but is very faithless about liking the place well enough to ever go there to live.  If he does not like, he will take Thode home with him, and go into business of some kind in St. Albans.  He is in great purplexity.  When at St Albans the other day I got some papers and sent to you, P.B. Van, Esq Felt, Charly Post, H Fargo & Pat O’Brian, and a new Ballou’s Pictorial to my good young friend Stick in The Mud.  I have many other good friends about the Lake that I remember with much pleasure, and would be glad to recompense for their uniform kindness toward me.

ballous pictorial

Ballou’s Pictorial was published during the 1850s in Boston, Massachusetts. ~ HistoricNewEngland.org

I am glad that you make your quarters with Mr Stoddard some of the time.  You could find no better place in that country.  Give my respects to him & wife, also to Mr Wheeler & family & Mr Davis & family if there.  Give my best respects to Mr Baker & all the other boys & be assured of the best wishes for your welfare & happiness, and success in business, of your ever affectionate Father

Giles A. Barber

Has Gen. Lewis even sent you that contract?


Cambridge Feb 12th 1858

Dear Son

This week is about gone & have not yet written one word to you.  I hope you will pardon the neglect.  I have not much to write that you will care about reading.  Still I intend to furnish you with some thing from home every week, i.e. if it ever reaches you.

The most important item of news is that we are all well as usual (myself excepted) & that has been so long stereotype that it has ceased to be news, & yet I presume it is none the less welcome to you.  My health & strength are gradually on the gain, & for a week past my swelled legs have been much better.

I went up to Dr Chamberlin (as I wrote you I intended) last week Wednesday and stayed close in his house till the next Sunday night, & recd great benefit from his ministrations.

He pronounced my trouble, as wholly arising from debility & torpor of the small veins and absorbment in my feet & legs & immediately applied bandages & a wash of Alcohol & [Garm My sch?] I was well satisfied with the Dr’s performance & think he did as well as any who make more noise in the world.  It was very gratifying to him, having a patient from a distance.  Consequently his steps, always very short when in good spirits, were reduced  in length and quickened ¼.

Many good old fellows of the village called to see me & I had a very agreeable time of it, besides being greatly benefitted by the long protracted visit.

I have been improving since I came home!  Amherst is my Dr now he rubs & bathes my legs 4 times a day and applies the bandages with considerable skill & alacrity.

Amherst chops the wood at the door & is quite a chopper his time is occupied with that, Skating, playing pasteboard, & backgammon, reading & some study.  I have promised him that when he gets the front yard filled with good stove wood I will go with him to Georgia & visit every body there, from Hon A. Sabin, down to those little ones growing up around my old associates & friends.  Such a visit will be very pleasant to me & would do him no harm, but if my legs do not get well or better than now I am afraid “I cannot get to go” this winter.

There is a great temperance agitation throughout the State this winter, & hired lecturers are traversing it in all directions “but as the movement” began before I got home, & I have been unable to attend, any meetings, it it is impossible for me to tell what particular object of the temperance people are driving at.

I think that in Johnson & this town those who formerly were most open & vindictive against the cause, have no subsided into acqueiscince with public opinion, and have become ashamed to be seen tippling or opposing the law.  Even Uncle Enoch has ceased to rail constantly about the abridgement of his liberties, and would give his old hat if it (alcohol) could be kept for ever from George, who has now got to be a complete sot when he can obtain the “outter” so as to go to bed before noon or hide himself in the haymow.  Last fall he George set out in the evening for Montpelier with his skin full of rotgut & about 10 oclock he was found lying in a puddle near Morgan’s Store by Graw who alarmed the villagers.  George was got into the tavern & his horse & sulky were found near by the Academy.  The horse feeding quietly in the Morning George came to & to put the best look on the [can pisned?] himself sick, went to bed & had physicians attend him all day.

There are rebellions progressing in a few places about the country.  St Albans Bay, Bakersfield, the South East part of the town and that neighborhood in what was once Sterling near Sanford Waterman’s.  Ralph Lasell is said to be one of the trophies they boast about.

The most curious thing aster is the strange predicament in which Judge Stowell of the Borough finds himself, he being a widower has for some over a year been playing [policies?] with one widow Goodrich a daughter & only child of David [T?????] & the day of the wedding twice fed upon the cake made & [Risd?] engaged but his precocious son Henry threatens wonderful things if his father marries the widow..  A suit is threatened but he Judge contending to worry the young widow & keep her easy so that she will not move in the matter, although Frank her father is swift for compelling him to marry or fork over.  Stowell is in trouble.  The ravings of French about town amaze him.

13th

Yesterday I went up to Mr Green’s visiting & drove my own team (Kate 2nd but my hands and arms are so weak that I shall not dare to try it again.  I could do just nothing at holding a horse that was disposed to go too fast, or where I did not wish to have it.  Kitty as we call the mare, is a larger nice beast, strong as a Moose, a good traveler, kind & true in every place, & would be just the creature we should want to carry on the little farm in Lancaster, for with her could every thing be done easily.  But then shall we ever occupy that farm?  Or shall we always have to clamber up rocks & hills, so long as I live?  There is manifested in a certain quarter the same disposition to withhold any opinions or wish in regard to that question as there, save when it is known to be in direct conflict with mine.

(Night.)

I have been down to Mr Heath’s this afternoon & made a short visit, found him about as he was last winter, still unable to speak louder than a whisper.  He is able to be up most of the time and to ride about some when Madison can go & drive for him…  Mad has a fine fat gal baby, a perfect wonder to its grand parents.  Marion has no such good luck (or all luck ) to boast of.  The weather has been very mild till day before yesterday when the Ther. was down -12* Yesterday it was -24* & this Morning -16* & prospect of a cold night again.  Sleighing that has been poor most of the winter is now tolerable & teams are constantly passing as in older times.

14th

Last evening Uri Perry & woman made us a visit.  Martin & Jot living at home with them.  Wyman is still in Ill.  Susan lives at North Bend, & Amanda married last fall to a young man named Bosworth son of a rich Merchant in Boston, so the story goes.

The Defendant & wife have just made us a short call, their boy now able to talk, is a very fine looking smart fellow.  We have been having some talk about Weston’s coming here to work for me next season.  I shall see him again & ascertain what we can do in the way of agreement.  I got a letter from Cyrus last monday asking about the disposition of the little farm another year.  He says he put up 166 baskets of corn for me the basket ½ Bus which would be so many Bus of shell corn.  There were [??] Bus of wheat for me, which Cyrus got ground at your mothers request & sold at the store at 24 pr lb for which he account to me.

Portrait

Honorable James Buchanan Jr was the newly-elected fifteenth President of the United States (1857-1861). Buchanan’s vice president John Cabell Breckinridge was already involved in Chequamegon land speculations. ~ U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

It is still a source of unhappiness to me that you are doomed to pass the long gloomy winter around that gloomy Lake.  I should feel much better if you were down at Lancaster or in the good little State of Vermont, where you could enjoy your friends and some of the comforts [???] I could wish all the comforts of civilized life.  But you are Surveying and prosperous I know you are making a better winters job of it than you could any where else were it not for the sufferings you must [??????????] made go in [isading?] in the snow [?? ?? ?? ??? ????ing ????] of sleeping at [??????] Such cold nights & mornings as the last week has given us makes me humble for you & your party, and perhaps miles from any lands or aid in case of any [????] of prusing or seeking to which you are in your situation.  So [??????????ly] exposed [?????????] I am anxiously waiting for more letters from you to know how you are braving the perils of your third polar winter, & I had thought that [?????] you went up to Superior i.e. if you have to go there for your drafts, you would just do us a ½ a doz letters to make up for past remissness in little writing.  I wrote a while ago to E.R. Bradford of Superior for information in relation to Superior [????] Starving populations I want to hear from there once in a dog’s age even if I do not like the inhabitants quite so well.  I have been in hopes that some of your paper would get along so that I could by them learn what was going on in the copper regions but as yet none have reached me, & probably will not this winter.  I hope Mr Tylor & his friends will be able to sustain themselves & their paper too, in spite of the combined powers of hell & its minions on earth, Buchanan, & all the unterrified & unwashed & E. B. Dean in [???] to the bargain.

Amen.

Summary of the Topeka Constitution, aka “the Kansas struggle”, from CivilWarOnTheWesternBorder.org:

  • Date originally drafted: October 1855
  • Stance on slavery: prohibited
  • Suffrage for women: none
  • Suffrage for African Americans: none
  • Suffrage for Native Americans: “every civilized male Indian who has adopted the habits of the white man”
  • Settlement by free African Americans: prohibited by an “exclusion clause” that was approved by Kansas voters
  • Status: failed to achieve federal recognition by January 1857
Stephen_A_Douglas_by_Vannerson,_1859

U.S. Senator Stephen Arnold Douglas ~ Library of Congress

The Kansas struggle seems drawing to a close.  Matters have arrived at that stage when a final settlement of the great issue is most able.  The prospection now favorable for the cause of freedom & for the abolishment of human bondage from the territory forever, & if that glorious result is finally obtained, it will be through the influence & talents of Douglas, the Northern Senator, who was mainly instrumental in opening the country to the inroad of Slavery, nor is it certain now that his [???????? ???? ?????] in his espousal of the Kansas Free State cause than long were in 1854.  Still whatever may be his policy in things on the right side over in his political compass, I am thankful enough for such aid in this time of need.  Probably no other man could have caused the [???????] to abandon the President as he has done when the d’d old [??????? ??? ????] is fairly laid on his back & the darling [??????] of his administration by which he had hoped to secure to himself the adoration and support of the entire south [??????] in wild as of the great unterrified & unwashed of the few states then if Douglas will conduct himself properly I should not care so much if he was the [????????] aspirant for the Presidency.  Senator said lately in the Senate that within the year there would be 19 Free States to 15 Slave States, by the admission of Minnesota, Kansas, & [???????], as [????? ????] states.  The Southern [??????] are alarming and talk loudly of a Southern Confederacy.  The Democracy generally throughout the Southern states are in opposition to their stupid Presidents on the Kansas question, & nothing but Douglas’ carrying his point will save this party from utter defeat & ruin.  While at the same time the party will be rid of its most obsiquious satans of southern [????] if the Poor devils and find any place to go to.  Perhaps they may get up a [????] of Secession party to catch the scum of the Democracy.

Do write as often as you can and as long as you can.  That is one great fault with your letters.  They are too short & do not tell [??] half about yourself business & prospects, that we would be glad to learn.

The Barbers made many friends among the Lake Superior Chippewa Mixed Bloods.
“Hon. John W. Bell, born in New York City in 1805, in his eighth year went to Canada with his parents, learned to be a watchmaker, a ship builder and a cooper, and came to La Pointe in 1835, where he has since resided.  He carried on the coopering business first, for the American Fur Company, and then for himself established a trading post, became interested in mining stocks, and filled various county offices, having served as county judge and register of deeds a great many years.  In later life he was postmaster at La Pointe.  He was married in 1837 to Miss Margaret Brahant, in the Catholic chapel, by BishopBaraga.  He died in 1888.”
Fifty Years in the Northwest by Elijah Evan Edwards, page 250.
William Herbert was a merchant in Ashland selling supplies to Ironton, and previously a copper prospector for the American Fur Company during the 1840s.

When you are at leisure you must begin and write little by little, till you would get a respectable letter [?????] size & length.  Anything would be interesting from the lake region even to the health of any of the Indians or half breeds, how my old Sombre friends [Chochiguenion?] Newaga & old [Renase?] & George Day ([?????]) are & how my Superior stranded friends are passing the winter.  Does the Judge indulge in a good drink occasionally?  Are Mr Maddock’s people all well?  Does Mr M work with his gang on the Pointe this winter?  Is Houghton stock rising?  Have you got your $800. [?????] begun yet?  I trust you will know too much to be drawn into [???????] arguments, I am willing he should make as much as pleases out of his wildcat town, but I do not want you should have anything to do with it any way or any how.  How does Dr Ellis get along with his Mill?  Do the hard times pinch operations & speculations around you this winter?  Is there any less Whiskey consumed than previously?  Does Dawson deal out the stuff with remembering to wet his own whistle? Is Herbert blasting around La Pointe or is he down at Ironton?  & finally how are things in general all around you?  When you are engaged in surveying I cannot expect you to have much spare time for writing, but I repeat the request that when you have the time to spare, you will give us longer letters so you must remember to write as often as you conveniently can, and when you do write, give us a letter long as a strong or as long as Amhert’s [???????] whiplash.

15th

Augustus Barber Grave

“IN MEMORY OF AUGUSTUS H. BARBER of Cambridge, Vt. U.S. Deputy Surveyor who was drowned in Montreal River Apr. 22. A.D. 1856 Aged 24 yrs. & 8 ms.” ~ FindAGrave.com

Yesterday a little sister of Ballard’s was buried.  She died of Scarlet fever, that is prevailing in N [????].  Ballard is at homer’s tells great stories how he sold property in those new towns [Samtagia?] & [San Colana?] (that he was concerned in taking up test summer with [????] her, ward [???]) in N.Y. City & how he recd payments in real estate in Brooklyn.  If he got any such property in Brooklyn, it must have been when the tide plains on some very distant part of a salt marsh for it does not look very [??? ????] that he would [? ?? ?? ??? ???] The eyes of Brights his so as to sell paper [??? lots for [???] valuable [?? ???????] I [??? ?????? ??? ???? ???? ??? ???? ???? ??? ????] make my visit to my old [???? ] in [??? ???] as I now contemplate doing.  You have [??? ??? ???? ????] your [???????] should for you or [????? ???] you [???? ???? ?????????] to have along [???? ????? ?? ???? ?? ????] How have you informed me [??? ??? ??? ??????? ?? ????] & [???? ?? ??] the grave of your dear Augustus.  How [??? ??? ???] his previous remains are at Lancaster.  [? ???] in Cambridge & [???] I would [????] I could prevent on you to leave there, never wish to see the Lake again or anything about it, but so long as Augustus is buried on the shore of that [???????? ????] I shall feel as though there is as some thing that [???? ?? ??] and [?????? ?? ??] have it so long as I stay.

This very long letter may be dismal for you to take at one dose.  So if you find your strength failing before you are through, reserve parts for another time when you feel better able to wade through these 8 pages.  Give my respects to all friends.  Tell John [C?????] I give my respect to his good old father, & to tell him that I do not forget my old friends.  Tell Mrs Maddock I wish I could convey one of my large cheeses to her.  I think cheese would suit you very well [?????] and prosperity & believe me your ever affectionate and anxious father

G. A. Barber


Cambridge Sunday Feb 15 1857

My dear Son

I again sit down to give you a short history of matters & things in this glorious land of liberty, of laws, Bibles, & Sabbaths.  In the 1st place we are all well, & when I write that word, that means so much, I cannot but wish that I knew, it could with equal truth be applied to you.  Our last from you was dated Dec 13th & in that two months following, so very cold here, how much you have suffered, or how you have endured the cold, fatigues, & privations of a surveyor’s life, is a subject of much solicitude in your paternal mansion, as well as among your numerous friends in Lamoille County.  But I hope soon to get another letter from you assuring us of your safety & welfare, down to a much later period.  I hope the winter has broken in your region as it has here, & that you will have a better time for prosecuting your surveys.

The Graduation Act of 1854 was an obstacle for the Barbers’ absentee land claims in Grant County, Wisconsin.

Last week I wrote something about those who had purchased under the graduation law having their titles confirmed without further requirement, & that such a law would probably pass, but now it looks “like” it would not pass that the purchasers would be held strait up to the mark &c.  Your Uncle Allen says you had better build a house, for that is what you need, & will add to the value of the farm all it will cost, & save your paying out the [??? ?????] to save what you have already paid which would be $201.38 if I have figured right & then you would have no house or improvement.  Perhaps the Law may be passed or some relief granted to the many who would suffer severely if the Law as it now stands is enforced.

Your friend Levi with Oscar have been over here a good share of the day, & have been viewing by day light the agates & curiosities I brought home with me.

This is the 3rd good visit from Levi since I got home.  His health is much better now than formerly, but if he is not well this spring I will try to have him go up & visit you.

Our winter is on its wane & spring like days are upon us & yet I have not settled what will or shall be done with the farm.  Dow wishes to remain, & would so far as he is concerned be as good a man as I could expect to find any where but his little woman is a small specimen of she tiger as venomous as hell, to all whom she dislikes.

There is now talk of having Mr Perry & Wyman for tenants though nothing certain yet, shall know soon.

The Barbers appear to have taken legal and private action against Daniel Shaw and Eliab B Dean Jr at the Superior City General Land Office for interfering with Augustus’ land claims.

I wrote you last week of the appeal having been taken from the Superior Land Office.  I have since written to Elder Sabin again enquiring how it stands now, when there will be a hearing in the case & whether my being present would be of any advantage &c.  If the Officers at at Superior have done anything to my prejudice, have left out anything material to my side of the case, or presented anything on the Dutchman’s side that should not be in or in any way connived to wrong me out of the Land why then I ought to be on the spot ready to meet it.  I want to prevail in that suit, after all the opposition, delay & rascality I have encountered from the other side.  I would sooner trust a dog with my dinner than any of my rights or interests in the hands of such a man as E. B. Dean & I know not as Shaw is any better.

When I wrote to you last we were having a heavy thaw that broke up the Hudson and did $2,000,000 damage in the City of Albany alone & immense damage at Troy & other places on the river & on all the rivers south as far as heard from including Cincinnati where there was great damage done, by crushing boats &c.

That thaw took cold Sunday night, & it has been down to 20* below 0. since, but to day we are having another thaw & raining so that sleighing will be “pone” after this if there is any.  The Legislature Extra Session convenes at Montpelier next Wednesday to do something to provide for a place in which to hold their future sessions, & such a stripe as will be manifested the present week, the state never saw.  Among the towns claiming the future State house are Montpelier Burlington Northfield St Johnsbury, Rutland Woodstock Windsor & Bellows Falls.  The principal stripe will be between Montpelier & Burlington & I should not wonder if the latter should carry the day.  Of course all below Hydepark are for B. & a general desire through the state has long been expressed for a removal of the Capitol from M, but possibly a sympathy for M. may operate on the minds of the Members thinking it hard to take it away when they have built & spread themselves so much thinking their fine Granite house was as durable as the Green Mountains.  On the Contrary it can be said that M. has had the S. House 50 years and that is a long time, & should be the reason of giving to some other town.  When I write next Sunday I may be able to tell you more about it, though it is not likely the question will be settled by that time.

I sent you in my letter of last Sunday a beautiful Ambrotype copy, from the Daguerrotype of Augustus, which I hope will reach you in safety.  I sent one to my Mother in a good case & one to Alvira like yours, & Am. is going to send one to Helen Whiting, who has written him some of the most touching & beautiful letters in relation to the death of our dear unfortunate Augustus.  I knew she was a girl great powers of mind, but did not think she would interest herself so much in the griefs of our family.  I wish you could read her letters to Amherst.  She is now at Greenupsburg write to her Greenups Co. Ky. in the extreme N.E. part of the State, teaching in a family school.

I got a letter from your Grand Pa last Friday by which we are advised of the continued good health of all the good folks in Lancaster up to Feb 4th  He says that they are now talking of building an Academy there.  Mr Myers who married Marthy Phelps has offered to give $150.00. and teach German & French two years.  He is a wealthy, educated & refined Gentleman from the faderland & by his liberality I should think would shame some of the close fisted skinflints who might by such liberality have made Lancaster a “heap” smarter place than it is now.

16th

You cannot imagine how Hiram enjoys his new Red embroidered shirts, they can keep him him warm enough in winter weather without anything else.  Hoping to hear from you soon I will defer writing more till another Sunday unless something “turns up.”  You have so many letters sent & so few mails, they must come in chunks or gobs as Jo Doane says.  Give my respects to all the boys & friends in La Pointe Co!

Your father Giles A Barber


Cambridge Sunday Feb 22 1857

My Dear Son

I will continue to trouble you with my letters, if I do not get anything from you & I hope to have you receive as many letters during your prolonged, painful absence from home as there are weeks, and though I am unable to fill them with matter interesting to you.  Still I know from experience that when in exile, in a distant strange land, any such mementoes from home & those dear to us, bring all the familiar faces of friends visibly to mind & for a moment almost make us forget [????] the distance that stretches out between us.  I suppose there is no item of news that gives you more pleasure than the two short words “All well” when you understand that it applies to our family & yet you have had it so often reiterated, that were it anything else, it would have become quite stale, if not absolutely painful.  We want to get such news from you oftener than we do, or rather we would be very happy to know of your continued well being & be so near you that the knowledge would be more direct, than hearsay.

Your Mother is constantly apprehensive of dire misfortunes to you, of suffering, from cold, hunger, fatigue & privations.  Yet, after all, I cannot help feeling much solicitude for your welfare fearful of the effect of this unprecented cold winter upon your health as well as comfort & convenience.  Still no letter from you of later date than Dec 13th.  Hope to get one very soon, with good news from you & the young men of your party.

For about 3 weeks the thaws have been so severe as to carry off all the snow except a little in the woods & the mud was like April, but we have some snow fallen again that has laid an embargo on waggons.  The river has run over the meadows during the past week..  A thing unusual in winter.

As yet we have made no disposition of the farm for the coming year.  Mr Dow has done much better in a pecuniary point of view, than either other tenant.  I was looking over matters with him last night & find that the product of the Dairy, &c has been sold for $616.00 to say nothing of 18 Bu’s Wheat, 150 Bus Potatos, a good lot of corn & Oats 7 yearlings the cold, &c &c.  The cold is a very good one, worth as much as any one I ever knew of its gender, but as I may have to pay Dow for ½ of him I am confident about “letting on.”  So far as I can see, the man has been honest enough, is a very careful man with cattle & horses, a good judge of both, is a sober, temperate, cool, calculating Yankee.  And yet his wife is a different sort of woman from what I should like to have around, & has not treated your mother & Amherst as she should considering the obligations she was under to do otherwise.  She is a little waspied, petulant, conceited, niggardly body, as one would meet in a summer’s day, not strictly confined within the limits of truth, somewhat nervous & in case of trouble in domestic matters rather inclined to sick headache & hysterias.  But she keeps things in much better shape than Mrs Dickinson did, every way & in the main, would wish to pass off for a very nice little woman.  It is hard to think of having her another year, after all her insulting talk to your Mother, & perhaps equally hard for her to ask to stay, after so often saying that she would not do so, on any consideration.  I have no trouble with her & will not with her or her husband while they are around, or I have any thing to do with them.. Another Man Harrison Putnam cousin to Aaron was here yesterday while I was gone to Johnson, wishing to take the farm, but whether the change would be advantagous is problematical.  One thing I have set down as a fixed fact, it is one of the last places in which I would look for perfection, in a tenant, & as all are wide of the mark it only remains to take them making the [????] affirmation.

Our Extra Session of the Legislature is battling for a location for the future State house, with what success I do not learn since the 2nd day, when an informal ballot was taken in the senate, each Senator giving his ballot with the name of the town he would prefer for State Capitol written on it, whole number voting 29, of which Burlington took 12, Montpelier 11, the remaining 6 for 6 different towns.  I fear that a foolish sympathy for M. because they have had the capitol so long inducing them to build extravagantly will induce many to vote against removal, without considering that Burlington has never had but 1 Session of the Legislature (in 1802) while Montpelier has had it in uninterrupted succession 49 years, or a half century.  “Let her rip”  I hope to survive it, let it go either way, but my [??inx’] are for Burlington.

“Plain truth to speak” there is nothing of consequence to write, any how either about Cambridge or Johnson folks.. Times are barren of news I take the Semi Weekly Tribune in which we have murder & robberies committed in the latest fashion, by the garrote applied to the victim.  Some humorous articles entitled “Witches of New York” in numbers the last of which recd is 9.  They bear evident marks of coming from the pen of Mortimer Thompson author of Doesticks.

Oh there is one thing you will rejoice to hear & I should have informed you since.  The sugar that you & Mother prepared for the N.Y. Market has been sold & the cash recd when I was at St Albans on the [??d] inst from Mr Ladd.  It shows how much better it is to do things scientifically than otherwise for this sugar something about 300 [??] brought the astonishing sum of $15.00 after paying freight & Mr Ladd had hard work to get that.  Such Sugar as that is now worth up to 12% [cts?] here at home.  I got a letter from Mr Sabin Friday relative to that land claim now before the General Office at Washington, expect another soon to let me know when a hearing may be had.

I suspended writing till Amherst had returned from the P.O. in hopes he would bring a letter from you but disappointed in that I go at it again to finish it up ready for the mail.  I ought to correct an improper that I got on my mind & imparted to you, was that young Chadwick was an infamous character.  He is on the one that Mr Lowry had seen in Milwaukee, as he has never lived there but is & has been in Chicago ever since he went there three years ago.  I know not but I have made this correction before.  Give my respect to all my friends in Siberia.  Be a good boy, keep a stiff upper lip and take good care of yourself.  Write whenever you can.  Remember that unless Congress passes some law for the relief of Graduation purchases, you will have to come down & build a house on your land, sure as fate.

May God bless and preserve you

G.A. Barber


Dear Son

I take it for granted that if you live till spring you will go to Lancaster as it will probably be necessary for you to attend to your land as soon as possible.  Now if you do not think you can come home after you have been there, I feel as tho’ I must go there myself and see you.  I do not see any thing to prevent my doing so, now, and if nothing happens to prevent I hope to have the pleasure of seeing you.

If you can come here next summer I should defer my visit until some future time ‘tho I should like much to see L. and some of its inhabitants before long as I may like the place well enough to wish to stay.  Tell me what you think of the place.

Your affectionate Mother


Cambridge Sunday March 1st 1857

My Dear Son

Do you get any letters from home this long cold winter?  If you do you are more fortunate than we have been, for since my parting with you we have had but 4 letters 2 dated Nov 9th 1 Nov 22 & 1 Dec 13th & now there is a tedious period of 77 days in which we have known nothing of your health, your welfare or sufferings, or even of your existence.  You may be assured that we are growing very impatient to get letters from you, & think they will arrive soon, & in the meantime will console ourselves with the thought or rather hopes that you are yet alive & well, that we shall yet have good tidings from you, when the mail are to be carried around the shores of the Lake & through the forests.

There is nothing new, to write to you to day, only the same old story that we are all three well as could be expected under the circumstances.  Our snow went off the 1st week in Feb and we have only a few days good traveling since.

The snow is gone in the woods so that we can get around with perfect ease anywhere, & the prospect is that it will be the best season for Sugaring that we have had for 10 years.  Amherst & I are thinking of rigging up another small sugar place up in the woods east of the Gooseberry Hill, & making a few pounds of the delicious article.  Sugar is now worth from 10 to 12 ½ cts and they are ready to contract for it at 10 ½ now.  There has been some made the last week, though but few have commenced as yet.

Wyman Perry talks of starting in a few days for the Great West, he is here now, & I am advising him to go to Lancaster, thinking there will be a land call for Carpenters [?????] to build all the Buildings that are to dot the graduated lands.

I have just been reading three of the last letters written by our dear Augustus home, & to see the high hopes he had of doing well there & the indomitable energy that led him on, as he & any body else might have supposed, to affluence & and an honorable position in the world, and then to see all those bright hopes & prospects crushed in an hour & what is infinetely and painfully worse to lose him who was the light & hopes of us all.  Oh the thought that he who was suffering such hardships and privations in hopes of seeing brighter & happier days should be stricken down in a strange land, far from friends [?????] home, called in a moment to bid adieu to this bright earth, to all hopes of seeing friends & home & keep to the dark watery grave & into that unknown future world, where realms are forever sealed from the knowledge of the living, the thought I say is almost insupportable.  May God keep you from such a fate my dear Son.  Do be careful of your precious life & health & if our dear Augustus is gone where we may never see him again, we have his good examples, his virtues, & his valuable letters & papers, that are worthy of our highest regard & from which we may still derive instruction & benefit though he is as I [?????] believe in a happier state of being.

I do believe there was never any young man or any man in Cambridge whose death caused such a profound grief throughout the entire circle of his acquaintances as did the Melancholy death of our dear departed one, & well may humanity mourn his loss for he was one of [???] noblest specimens, & the loss of one such is more to be lamented than that of a regiment of senseless fops & rowdies who are suffered to curse the earth with their hated presence.  That we may all meet him, in another & better world is a fond hope to which I most fondly cling.

Monday 2nd March

I believe this is somebody’s birth day.  Oh that you were here to spend it with your parents & surviving brother.  How much joy it would be to us all, yourself included I trust. We had a letter from Alvira last week by which we learn that She has been something of a rambler since September 1st for she says that with her husband she went to Wis. as far as Beaver Dam, thence back to Chicago & from there to Quincy Ill. down on the Miss 200 or 300 miles below Galena where they remained till into January when they returned, to Winooski.  Brink has since gone to Troy N.Y. to work & [??] is boarding, talkings of coming up here to stay a while this spring in sugaring.  Would not you like to be here with us.  We are all hands going to getting in at the Cruping Rock to fill an ice house at Bush on the Carlston [???] to day, & that brings to mind the changed condition of our neighborhood.  Kingsbury owns the Wetherby farm & lives in the farther house, & two French families live in the Wetherby house.  George Busk owns & lives on the Carlston place.  Mr Green has let out his farm and moves away this spring.  Atwood does not keep a boat so that all communication with them is cut off except by ice (I went over there last night with Am. crossing on a small ice bridge yet remaining at the road & Oscar returned with us) & by wading as Am & Oscar used to do last summer to get together.  The school has all dwindled out, there not being more than 20 scholars in the district, beside French children, & taken altogether it does not seem like a very desirable place to spend a long & happy life.

The river is taking off the banks at an alarming rate & within a few years will have carried the whole meadow away.

If this reaches you & the many more I have sent out on Monday Mornings you will have some reading to do & I hope it may stimulate you to write oftener to your

Anxious and Affectionate father

G.A. Barber

It is now in contemplation to build you some good substantial clothing from the beset of [Gibon?] a business coat some pants & a vest, shirts, socks, mitts gloves &c &c & I am going to have about 12 or 15 pr of good stout pants made to carry up for such as may prefer to buy good articles, rather than the twice or thrice ground over rag cloth that scarcely lasts a fellow home.  If you come down to Lancaster you will find your & Augustus clothes there to make you a decent rig up while you remain there. I believe I will write to Norman Washburn to engage some lumber for you to use about your house.  He lives on the [??????] & is an agent for some body who deals in lumber about 10 miles from your land… Perhaps I will engage a quantity for myself to use at some future day on our pretty little farm at the village.

The Mail will be along soon, so I must have this ready.  Once more I say be careful of your life & health.  May a Merciful Providence protect you & bless you in all your lawful undertakings.

Giles A. Barber

My respects to the boys & all friends


Cambridge Sunday March 8th 1857

Dear Son Allen.

Why do we get no letters or word from you?  It does seem as though we should have had something from you, within 85 days if you had been in the land of the living.

Are you still alive & well?  If so, why do you not write?  Or are there no mails from where you are, to the habitable portions of the globe?  How does this long silence happen?  I write these questions as though you could answer them in a few days time, not realising that it may be a month or two before they reach you & that ere that time I may get letters from you fully explaining all the delay of letters & tidings from that winter isolated region of the earth…  I have great fears for the safety of yourself & party, the snows have been so deep and the cold so intense, & that if you are alive and well you have been unable to make any progress in the survey for the above reasons.  I see by the G. C. Herald that a party of “Engineers on the N.W. Land Grant R.R. have suspended work till spring the great depth of snow & intense cold of the winter offering insurmountable obstacles to their progress.

I also see an article in relation to graduation lands that is favorable to you, I will cut it out & enclose it to you.  By it, you will see that if the law passes, it will have to be shown that the Lands were not entered in good faith, before they can deprive you of yours, & that you will probably have no trouble with having to comply with any requisitions whatever unless perhaps you may deem it best to show that almost from the time of the entry of [?] lands you have been engaged in surveying on the Public Domain & have even designed to improve & reside upon the lands by you entered.

Mr Caleb Blake has just called and staid 2 ½ hours, on his way from the Borough to Lowell where he & family reside.  Jo is in New Jersey in an architects office & is going to rival old Greece & Rome in the building art.  Mrs Blake is yet living & enjoying a tolerable degree of health, for one who has been sick as long as she has.  Tom Edwards came in here last night about sunset & was very sick, greatly distressed with [Albe?], thought he would have to stay all night, but finally went home preferring to get there while he could, have heard nothing from him since, presume he will do a good days work to morrow.  Last Sunday [L?????] Parker daughter of Otis Parker (usually called “Cienta”) was buried, she having cut her throat with a case knife, cause probably insanity from severe pain in the back of the head & in the neck.  The family is now residing in Belviders.

Amherst’s red embroidered shirt was may have been a ribbon shirt from the Lake Superior Chippewas.

I got a letter last Tuesday from your Aunt Martha, who says that Mr B. had not gone to Wis. yet, had written to have Thode come home, was waiting till he came, so as not to pass him on the way & then it would chiefly depend on Thode whether they even went west or not, as they are very anxious to settle down somewhere, & have him willing & contented to stay with them.  I expect Thode will be at home soon & have that matter settled.  It will hard for the poor boy to leave his dear Miss P. & come to Vermont, & that very thing may have some influence in determining their residence.  I wrote yesterday by Mail & to day by Kingsbury to St. Albans & by to morrow night shall get answers to them, & to 3 o’clock, the folks i.e. Marm & Am have just got home from Meeting.  I chose to send him hoping he would imbibe more good than I could expect to do.  He wears the embroidered Red shirt as bold as any half breed to meeting to mills.

I know not but you are tired of receiving so many letters from me, but I do not yet believe “that receiving so many letters will make them of less value than they would be if recd more seldom”, as have heard argued this very day, but it would not be proper for me to state by whom, whether Am. or some body else that thought so much of saving 3 ¢ postage, nor did I think “He (yourself) is not concerned about us & needs not to hear from home so often.”  I have written every week but one, since getting home & if there has been great delay of mails, you will get letters by the bundle when they do come & then perhaps you will need a good stock of patience & time to enable you to ever get through them.  One thing you may rely upon, the perusal will not pay a great profit.. but you will see that you are not forgotten, if you are out the civilised world.  Especially by your

Affectionate father G.A. Barber

Do be careful of yourself
My respects to your companions
And to all friends & acquaintances
Write! Write!!  Write!!! oftener if you can.

March 9th 5 o’clock a.m.

All well.  Weather cold.
Hard South East Wind.  Got Sabrina Chase last night to make you some clothes, & some pants to take up to your country to sell.  Mrs Tracy of Johnson was buried yesterday.  Deacon Reynolds father to Harry Reynolds died a few days ago aged 91 years.

When shall I hear from you again????


Allen.

We wish very much that we could hear from you to know what you are up to & how you passed this winter & spring.  But we hope to get some thing from you soon.  I wish you could be here to make sugar with me this spring.  I intend to tap a lot of trees a way back in the woods & care it on my self.  Wouldn’t that be fun!

Should you wish not be bashful about going to help the squaws that sugar there shall you?  I cannot write any thing more at present but I will write when we hear from you.

A.W.B.


Cambridge March 19th 1857

Dear Son

The Barber Papers do not include copies of any letters from Lake Superior during the Winter of 1857.

We were happily surprised last night at receiving two letters from you, one a good long one to me dated at La Pointe Feb 13th & the other to Amherst dated at Mr Fargo’s new house on the 22nd ult.

The Barbers had plans to purchase supplies for Ironton from merchants in Ashland including Albert McEwen.

I rec’d also 3 other letters one from your uncle Allen, one from your Aunt Martha & one from Hyde back on business.  I am much alarmed for the safety of Friend McEwen & think the prospect of his being alive is very small.  The case deserves a rigid investigation to ascertain whether he was murdered by his guides, or was deserted by them & left to perish in the wilderness.  The weather was favorable about that time & for some days after.  I think he left La Pointe Oct. 14th the day I got back from Montreal River.  ‘Poor Mc’

In your Uncle Allen’s letter I find a notice from J. C. Squire Register of the Land Office at Mineral Point dated March 2nd in which he says

you are hereby called upon to produce testimony to perfect your title to the land entered by you on the 25th day of May 1857 at this office for Certificate of purchase No 25532 for actual settlement & cultivation under the provisions of the act of Congress &c &c.  If such testimony be not produced at this Office before the 1st day of June 1857, it will be regarded as an abandonment of your claim to the Land & the case will be reported at the General Land Office, in order that steps may be taken for throwing the land into Market again after proper notice.”

Your Uncle says

“I presume Allen had better make some improvements on his land before June 1st or by making [affe?] that he does not intend immediately to settle & that he desires to pay the bal. $75cts per a & enter in the land, he can do so.  I presume some one has complained, who wishes to get the land.

— Congress passed an act authorising patents to issue in all cases where complaints is not made before June as I understand.  If Allen will come down & make some improvement probably that would be the cheapest & besides he would have the money on his land.”

Now you have the sum & substance of the matter i.e. if you ever receive this & you will probably do in relation thereto as you deem most expedient.

Cyrus has P. the taxes on your land this winter $15.50 & says “a School house tax has been raised in that neighborhood the cause of it being so much.”  Your land will be worth enough more to pay for it.  Thode Burr has not got home yet he is in Howe & Barber’s store.  Mr Burr has not gone out there as yet but started for N.Y. yesterday with Emily on business for some other man when E. will stay 3 or 4 weeks.  Sugaring has begun & it is very nasty rainy weather today.

While in Congress (from March 4, 1853 to March 3, 1857), Honorable Alvah Sabin served as chairman for the Committee on Revisal and Unfinished Business in the Thirty-fourth Congress.
“The Committee on Revisal and Unfinished Business monitored the business of Congress during its early years when unfinished business was terminated at the end of each session, and it recommended procedures to accomplish the work of Congress leaving as little unfinished business as possible.”
~ Guide to House Records

I am glad to learn that Mr Hayes has got through with that Land Claim, if it be really so.  But why should he write me that an appeal was taken & cause me the trouble of getting Mr Sabin to attend to it for me in Washington?  I have got 1 bag [pr,?] good [Gihow?] pants made to carry up to the lake.  Cut & made in the best manner, lined with heavy cotton, pockets of sout drilling.  Shall have 2 coats made for you 1 a very fine [Gihow Prown?] & I do [Grey?] for work.  If anybody wants good durable pants they will do well to see of me.

I have not much of consequence to write at this time more than you will find in the foregoing.  We are all well & com-fort-a-ble.

I have a lame knee, made some worn by going to the top of Billings hill with Amherst & Oscar last Sunday.  They were going & wanted one to go to point out to them the different places to be seen from there, & as it was one of the prettiest days in town I went with them.

Amherst is going to carry on a small sugar place where Mr Harvey used to make sugar.  Them is a great stripe for making sweet, by everybody who are snatching for Buckets & everything pertaining to the business.

It is about mail time & I must dry up.

Give my inputs to all friends.

Affectionately yours

G. A. Barber


To be continued in the Spring of 1857

By Amorin Mello

In our Penoka Survey Incidents series earlier this year, we followed some of the adventures and schemes of Albert Conrad Stuntz circa 1857.  The legacy of Albert’s influential survey still defines the geopolitical landscape of the Penokee Mountains to this day.  However, Albert’s work during the late 1850s was relatively minor in comparison to that of his brother, George Riley Stuntz, during the early 1850s.  The surveying work of George and his employees started in 1852 and enabled the infamous land speculators and townsite promotors of Superior City to manifest their schemes by early 1854 (months before the Treaty of La Point occurred later that year).  

Among the men that worked with George was Augustus Hamilton Barber.  Sometime around 1850, Augustus had followed his Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins from the Barber family of Lamoille County, Vermont, to Lancaster in Grant County, Wisconsin.  After a short career as a school teacher in Grant County, Augustus came to Lake Superior in 1852 employed by George as a Chainman under his contract with the United States General Land Office to survey lands at the Head of Lake Superior.

Before taking a closer look at the Barber Papers, let’s examine the lives and affairs of other surveyors and speculators along the southwest shore of Lake Superior, starting with George Riley Stuntz and his production of these Exterior Field Notes (June of 1852):

1852 affidavit 1 1852 affidavit 2 1852 affidavit 3

Duluth and St. Louis County, Minnesota;
Their Story and People

By Walter Van Brunt, 1921, pages 64-65.

Page 75.

Portrait of George Nettleton’s cabin on Minnesota Point in 1852 on page 75.

William Rainey Marshall was a Democrat in Wisconsin and as a Republican in Minnesota.
A biography of the brothers George and William Nettleton is available at ZenithCity.com.

First Settler.– The honor, for both Superior and Duluth, must presumably go to George R. Stuntz. He came in 1852, and settled in 1853. Several were earlier of course, but can hardly be considered to have been legitimate independent settlers. Carlton had been on the ground, at Fond du Lac, for some years, but he was Indian agent; Borup and Oaks had spent their time between La Pointe and Fond du Lac, but were then at St. Paul, and mainly interested in the development of that city, and in fur trading. Wm. R. Marshall stated that he “was on the lake as early as 1848,” but not to settle and he did not come again until 1857. Wm. R. Marshall and George R. Stuntz were fellow-surveyors, in federal pay, “back in the ’40s,” but Marshall did not seek to take the place of Stuntz as premier pioneer at the head of Lake Superior. As a matter of fact, although “on the lake as early as “1848,” Marshall did not then get nearer to Duluth than La Pointe, where he met “Borup and Oaks, the principal traders, Truman Warren, George Nettleton, Cruttenden, Wattrous, Rev. Sherman Hall, E. F. Ely and others.” It is quite possible that Stuntz was with Marshall in 1848, for that was the year in which Stuntz first entered Minnesota territory “having charge of a surveying party that was working near Lake Pepin and in what is now Washington County.”

A biography of George B. Sargent is available at ZenithCity.com.

The “Heart of the Continent.”– George R. Stuntz prepared the way for the first attempt at white settlement at the head of Lake Superior. He surveyed the land on the Wisconsin side, within a year of beginning which survey, in 1852, the first settlers began to appear. George R. Stuntz came by direction of George B. Sargent, who at the time was surveyor-general of the Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota district for the federal government, his headquarters being at Davenport, Iowa. In that year, states Carey, “he surveyed and definitely located a portion of the northeastern boundary line between Minnesota and Wisconsin, starting from the head of navigation on the St. Louis River, at Fond du Lac, and running south to the St. Croix River.Stuntz himself stated: “I came in 1852. I saw the advantages of this point (Minnesota Point) as clearly then as I do now (1892). On finishing the survey for the government, I went away to make a report, and returned the next spring and came for good. I saw as surely then as I do now that this was the heart of the continent commercially, and so I drove my stakes.”

Group of people, including a number of Ojibwe at Minnesota Point, Duluth, Minnesota [featuring William Howenstein] ~ University of Minnesota Duluth, Kathryn A. Martin Library

Group of people, including a number of Ojibwe at Minnesota Point, Duluth, Minnesota [featuring William Howenstein in 1872?] ~ University of Minnesota Duluth

Stuntz and Howenstein competed with Nettleton and others for fame as the first settlers on Minnesota Point after Stuntz’s 1852 survey with Augustus Barber.

The Vanguard.– He did not come alone, needing of course assistants in the work of surveying, but he was in charge of the work, Gand necessarily takes first place in the accounting. William C. Sargent, son of George B. Sargent, stated in 1916, that his father “came here (Duluth) first in 1852 with George R. Stuntz and Bill Howenstein,” and goes on to state “a word of those two grand men, George R. Stuntz and Bill Howenstein.” He believed that “to George R. Stuntz, more than to any other man belongs the honor (of) opening up that region,” and of Howenstein, he said: “And old Bill Howenstein, one of the best ever, and always my very good friend, a kindly body, with a quaint dry humor unsurpassed and seldom met with in these later days. I had many an interesting chat with him, in his home on Minnesota Point, that he built in 1852, and lived in until his death, some years ago.” Bill Howenstein, undoubtedly was of Stuntz’ party in 1852, but it is doubtful whether he built a log house on Minnesota Point in that year. As to General Sargent’s visit in 1852. If he did come then, it was probably only a flying visit. His interest in the head of Lake Superior in 1852 reached only to the extent of directing Stuntz to survey it. He, himself, had the surveying business of three states to attend to.


The New York Times

[December 11, 1852]

The Region about the Southwest End of Lake Superior.

Augustus H. Barber also lived in Grant County, where George R. Stuntz was the County Sheriff during 1851-52.

Mr. Stuntz, of Grant County, Wis., has been deputed by the general Land Surveyor of this Northwest District to lay off such a tract of land about the southwest point of the lake into townships and sections, as emigrants will earliest require.  He returned via La Pointe and Stillwater last week. We have obtained from him some new views of that region. From Fond du Lac, a trading post situated 11 miles inland on the St. Louis River, eastward, for perhaps 50 miles, the margin of the lake is a flat strip of land reaching back to a rocky ridge about 11 miles off. The soil of this flat land is a rich red clay. The wood is white cedar and pine of the most magnificent growth. The American line is beyond the mouth of the St. Louis and Pigeon rivers. It evidently abounds in copper, iron and silver. The terrestrial compass cannot be used there, so strong is the attraction to the earth. The needle rears and plunges “like mad.” Points of survey have to be fixed by the solar compass.

This individual is likely Joseph B. Houle from Lac Courte Oreilles who became an early settler of Superior City with his Roy brothers-in-law.  Big Joewas featured in the Penoka Survey Incidents memoirs by James Smith Buck, and may also beKitchie Ininifrom Joseph Austrian’s memoirs.

The Indian and half breed packmen have astonishing strength. One Indian, who is described by the others as being as large as two men, carried for a company of 11 men provisions for ten days, viz: one barrel of flour, half barrel of pork and something else, beside the utensils. Mirage is a common phenomenon is Spring and Summer. For the bays not opening as soon as the main lake, or not cooling so early, an object out on the lake, is viewed from the shore, through a dense medium of air and a thin medium. Hence is a refraction of rays which gives so many wonderful sights that the Chippewas call that the spirit or enchanted land. Sail vessels which are really 40 miles off, are seen flapping and bellying about almost within touch. Turreted Islands, look heavy and toppling towards the zenith. Forests seem to leap from their stems and go a soaring like thistles for the very sport of it.

Born in Denmark, Doctor Charles William Wulff Borup intermarried with the Beaulieu Family of La Pointe Chippewa during the 1830’s.  As an employee of the American Fur Company, Borup relocated the village of La Pointe from the Old Fort location to the modern site in 1836.  The Borup/Beaulieu/Oakes Family appear to be the last owners of the defunct American Fur Company outfit at La Pointe before Julius Austrian purchased all of La Pointe in 1853, including Borup’s residence and garden. By then, Borup was absent from La Pointe, and engaged in the earliest banking and Freemasonry activities of Minnesota in St. Paul.

The ice did not leave some of the bays till the 10th of June. The fish are delicious, especially the salmon trout. But little land game. Mr. Stunts calculates on wonderful enterprises in that country after the opening of the Saut Canal.

Mr. S. describes La Pointe a town of the Lake, as being situated at the head of a bay some 25 miles from the high lake, and secluded from the lake by several islands. He saw there a warehouse 300 feet long, built of tamarac poles, and roofed with bark. This building is very much warped by the pressure of age ; it is entered by a wooden railway. The town is dingy and dreary. He saw a most luxurious garden by the former residence of Dr. Borup. It contained a variety of fruit trees and shrubs, such as plums, cherries, apples, pears, currants, &c.


1852

Cover of Stuntz’s Exterior Field Notes (August-October 1852) ~ Wisconsin Public Land Survey Records: Original Field Notes and Plat Maps

Title page.

1852 Iron River assistants

George Riley Stuntz was also assisted by his brother Albert Conrad Stuntz as well as the African-Chippewa mixed-blood Stephen Bonga employed as an Axeman. To learn more about the interesting Bonga (Bonza) family and Stephen as “the first white child born at the head of Lake Superior,” read pages 39-41 of The Black West by William Loren Katz (1971), and pages 131-34 of Black Indians also by Katz (2012).


The Eye of the North-west: First Annual Report of the Statistician of Superior, Wisconsin

By Frank Abial Flower, 1890

Portrait of Steven Bonga, pg. 7

Portrait of Stephen Bonga, page 7.

GEORGE R. STUNTZ, DEPUTY U. S. SURVEYOR [pages 50-52]

Portrait of George Riley Stuntz, pg.

Portrait of George Riley Stuntz, page 26.

In 1852 George R. Stuntz took a contract to run the township lines in this part of the country, including the state boundary, and filed with the land-office at Dubuque a rude map of the head of the lake, on the Wisconsin side, in December of that year. He took a new contract and returned in the spring of 1853 to survey the copper range around Black River, a few miles south of Superior. He brought seeds with him and planting them on the Namdji, raised a quantity of vegetables; they grew to great size. he also built a trading-post on Minnesota point near the present light-house, and a mill on Iron River in Bayfield county. In respect of these operations W. W. Ward writes from Morley, Mo.:

W. W. Ward also came to Lake Superior employed as a Chainman with Augustus H. Barber for George R. Stuntz’s first contract in June of 1852.  Was he related to Matt Ward from the Penoka Survey Incidents?
FIRST SAW MILLS AT THE HEAD OF LAKE SUPERIOR
The first lumber of any description produced locally, other than by “Whip sawing”, was at Iron River, Wisconsin about forty miles from Superior on the South Shore of Lake Superior.
George R. Stuntz with William C. Howenstein, Andrew Reefer and George Falkner built and operated a water power “up and down” sawmill at the falls on Iron River about a half a mile from the Lake, capable of cutting three thousand feet of lumber a day. The writer has several 1 1/4 inch absolutely “clear” White Pine boards 24 and 26 inches wide and 18 feet long that were originally stored in a loft to be used in building a skiff. This mill was built in 1854 and the lumber was floated up the Lake to Superior, Oneota and Fond du Lac…
~ Superior, Wisconsin, papers, 1831-1942 ([unpublished])
SUPERIOR TOURIST SEASON OF 1854
From “A Pioneer of Old Superior” by Lillian Kimball Stewart
“In the summer of ’54 the Sam Ward plying between the Sault and any port on Lake Superior, brought on every trip a goodly number of emigrants, speculators, and tourists, bent on seeing the new “city” of Superior. Stuntz’s dock was located near an Indian village, so that every traveler as well as every piece of freight or baggage was subject to inspection by braves, squaws, and papooses before receiving a passport to the shore across the bay…”
~ Superior, Wisconsin, papers, 1831-1942 ([unpublished])

“It was in the spring of 1853 that Mr. Stuntz, Deputy U. S. Surveyor, received his second contract to survey and run the township lines taking in the range around Black River Falls, a portion of Left-hand River country and that part where Superior now is. In the latter part of April that year he organized a party – viz., Nat. W. Kendall, James McKinzie, Pain Bradt, James McBride, Harvey Fargo, Wm. H. Reed, John Chisholm, Joseph Latham, Augustus Barber, and your humble servant. Procured three birch-bark canoes and supplies at Stillwater, Minn.: left there the first day of May, passed up the St. Croix River to its head, made a portage of about two and a half miles into the headwaters of the Brule River, down said river into Lake Superior, thence up the lake to what was called the entry of St. Louis Bay [now Superior Bay], and landed on Minnesota Point in the early part of June. At that time there were no white settlers in this end of the lake – all Chippewa Indians and ‘breeds’ – scarcely a stick missing on that side of the bay where Superior City now stands. We finished the surveying contract and went in early fall down to Iron River, built a double log-shanty, and made other preparations for the construction of a saw mill. Here the first lumber was made at the head of the lake and the first road opened through to the settlement on the St. Croix. The following February, Mr. Stuntz having a trading-post on Minnesota Point [then Stuntz’s Point], I went there and assisted in building a block-house and steamboat pier, and found improvements and a few log-shanties built where old Superior now is located.”

[…]

HUSTLING FOR TOWNSITES [pages 58-60]

Vincent Roy Jr. (From Life and Labors of Rt. Rev. Frederic Baraga by Chrysostom Verwyst

Vincent Roy Jr.  ~ Life and Labors of Rt. Rev. Frederic Baraga by Chrysostom Verwyst,

VI. – Superior.

Vincent [Roy Jr.] had barely emerged from the trouble just described when it was necessary for him to exert himself in another direction.  A year or so previously he had taken up a claim of land at the headwaters of Lake Superior and there was improvement now on foot for that part of the country, and danger for his interests.

The ship canal at Sault St Marie was in course of construction and it was evidently but a question of days that boats afloat on Lakes Huron and Michigan would be able to run up and unload their cargo for regions further inland somewhere on the shore at the further end of Lake Superior, at which a place, no doubt, a city would be built.  The place now occupied by the city of Superior was suitable for the purposes in view but to set it in order and to own the greatest possible part of it, had become all at the same time the cherished idea of too many different elements as that developments could go on smoothly.  Three independent crews were struggling to establish themselves at the lower or east end of the bay when a fourth crew approached at the upper or west end, with which Vincent, his brother Frank, and others of LaPointe had joined in.  As this crew went directly to and began operations at the place where Vincent had his property it seems to have been guided by him, though it was in reality under the leadership of Wm. Nettleton who was backed by Hon. Henry M. Rice of St. Paul.  Without delay the party set to work surveying the land and “improving” each claim, as soon as it was marked off, by building some kind of a log-house upon it.  The hewing of timber may have attracted the attention of the other crews at the lower end about two or three miles off, as they came up about noon to see what was going on. The parties met about halfway down the bay at a place where a small creek winds its way through a rugged ravine and falls into the bay.  Prospects were anything but pleasant at first at the meeting; for a time it seemed that a battle was to be fought, which however did not take place but the parceling out of ‘claims’ was for the time being suspended.  This was in March or April 1854.  Hereafter some transacting went on back the curtain, and before long it came out that the interests of the town-site of Superior, as far as necessary for efficient action, were united into a land company of which public and prominent view of New York, Washington, D.C. and other places east of the Mississippi river were the stockholders.  Such interests as were not represented in the company were satisfied which meant for some of them that they were set aside for deficiency of right or title to a consideration.  The townsite of the Superior of those days was laid out on both sides of the Nemadji river about two or three miles into the country with a base along the water edge about half way up Superior bay, so that Vincent with his property at the upper end of the bay, was pretty well out of the way of the land company, but there were an way such as thought his land a desirable thing and they contested his title in spite of his holding it already for a considerable time.  An argument on hand in those days was, that persons of mixed blood were incapable of making a legal claim of land.  The assertion looks more like a bugaboo invented for the purpose to get rid of persons in the way than something founded upon law and reason, yet at that time some effect was obtained with it.  Vincent managed, however, to ward off all intrusion upon his property, holding it under every possible title, ‘preemption’ etc., until the treaty of LaPointe in the following September, when it was settled upon his name by title of United States scrip so called, that is by reason of the clause, as said above, entered into the second article of that treaty.

The subsequent fate of the piece of land here in question was that Vincent held it through the varying fortune of the ‘head of the lake’ for a period of about thirty six years until it had greatly risen in value, and when the west end was getting pretty much the more important complex of Superior, an English syndicate paid the sum of twenty five thousand dollars, of which was then embodied in a tract afterwards known as “Roy’s Addition”.
Biographical Sketch – Vincent Roy Jr;  Vincent Roy Jr. Papers.

Up to the time of the survey in the spring of 1854 all was chaos as to lands west of the claims of Robertson, Nelson, Baker and their party. There could be no titles or bona fide purchases, as only the mouth of the Nemadji had been surveyed. There were really three “townsite” companies— Robertson, Nelson and Baker, with their associates J. A. Bullen, J. T. Morgan, E. Y. Shelly, August Zachau, C. G. Pettys, Abraham Emmett, and perhaps others, forming one which had the surveyed lands next to the Nemadji. West of them were Francis Roy, Benjamin Cadotte, Robert Bothwick, Basil Dennis, Charles Knowlton and nearly a dozen half-breeds, mostly brought from Crow Wing by Nettleton in the interest of what was known as the “Hollinshead crowd”—Edmund and Henry M. Rice, George L. Becker, Wm. and George W. Nettleton, Benjamin Thompson, James Stinson and W. H. Newton. Still farther west were Benjamin W. Brunson, A. A. Parker, R. F. Slaughter, C. D. Kimball, Rev. E. F. Ely, George R. Stuntz, Bradley Salter, Joseph Kimball, Calvin Hood, and others who proposed to call their town Endion—”Ahn-dy-yon,” the Chippewa for “home.”

B. W. Brunson, still a resident of St. Paul, has described the contest in writing. He says:

Believing Superior would become of importance I went there in February, 1854, with R. F. Slaughter. We found some Ontonagon parties had claimed on the bay and we bought an interest in their claims and began to lay out a city and make improvements. While surveying the town, and when we had the same so far completed as to make a plat of it, the township having been subdivided by a good surveyor, then it was that Vincent Roy, Basil Dennis, Charles Brissette and Antoine Warren, accompanied by twenty-one other half-breeds and some four or five white men, headed, led and directed by one Stinson and one Thompson, who were acting for themselves and as agents of the company, came upon the lands to make their claims and avail themselves of pre-emption rights as citizens of the United States. These men were in the employ of the company for the purpose of making claims, and there was a claimant for each and every quarter-section as fast as the surveyor set the quarter-post. They had commenced the day before, with or at the same time the surveyor commenced his work. The timber being dense and there being a strong force, they were able to build an 8×10 cabin and cover it with boughs, upon each quarter, and then overtake the surveyor before he could establish the next quarter, thus taking the land as they went, and in that manner were progressing when they came upon the land marked out and occupied by us.

The meeting of the two hostile parties occurred on the banks of the deep slough in what is now called Central Park. Nothing but the timidity of the half-breeds prevented bloodshed. Brunson was armed and intended to, and did stand his ground. Thompson, one of the pluckiest of men, was also armed, having two revolvers, and was prepared and intended to proceed. The Indians, not being armed, did not wish to engage in a battle where the leaders only were prepared to fight; and so there was no physical conflict, though a state of chaos and bad feeling continued for some time. Several cabins were demolished, Brunson’s party entirely cutting in pieces a house built by Basil Dennis on the ground now occupied by Dr. Conan’s fine residence.

A long legal contest followed. Finally in 1862-63 patents issued from the government to three men—S. W. Smith, Lars Lenroot and Oliver Lemerise—chosen as trustees of the townsite for the benefit of actual occupants. Thus those who claimed to be proprietors of, but not settlers on the townsite, lost their lands as well as their labor. In the winter of 1853-54 Henry M. Rice asked the Commissioner of the General Land Office whether, when lands which had not been surveyed were claimed for a townsite they would be liable to pre-emption as soon as the survey should be made. The answer was in favor of pre-emption; and that is how those who with Brunson put money into Superior City townsite lost it. The actual settlers got the townsite, the patent being made to the three trustees named who divided the plat, containing 240 acres with riparian rights in Superior Bay, and deeded lots to occupants and purchasers. It may be proper to mention here that a little plat of thirty-four acres, with riparian rights in the bay, and known as Middletown, went through a similar siege of litigation and was finally patented to three trustees —Urguelle Gouge, Louis Morrisette and Nicholas Poulliott—for the benefit of actual occupants. These decisions did not come until the “city” had collapsed and the land become nearly worthless.


The New York Times

[June 19th, 1858]

WESTERN LAND FRAUDS.

More Blood in the Body than Shows in the Face – Land Frauds in the Northwest – The Superior City Controversy – Pre-emptions by Swedes and Indians

Washington, Thursday, June 17, 1858.

Senator Henry Mower Rice ~ United States Senate Historical Office

Senator Henry Mower Rice
~ United States Senate Historical Office

There are some interesting matters here besides what takes place in Congress, and I propose from time to time to touch upon them. An expenditure of $60,000,000 per annum does not cover all the pickings and stealings that “prevail” in our hereabouts. Senator RICE did not tell all he knew about land-office operations, when he testified to the value of the Fort Snelling property. Nobody is better aware than he that the tract would be much better to cut up into town lots than Bayfield was when he bought it for a few cents an acre, and sold it for hundreds of dollars. If we could find out all that Senator BRIGHT knows of these matters, one could learn how to become a millionaire at very small expense of brains or labor. Indian treaties and land-office jobbing have made more men rich than care to tell of it – ask General CASS if this is not so.

Attorney-General Caleb Cushing had previously invested with other Bostonians in the St. Croix River Valley copper mining and land speculation as the St. Croix and Lake Superior Mineral Company during 1845.

Seeing a bushel-basket of papers in the Interior Department the other day, I was curious to know what the kernel might be to all that rind, and made inquiry in the premises. I was told that they enveloped the case of Superior City. I cast my eye over some of them, and noticed that an argument was filed on behalf of one of the parties by Mr. Senator BRIGHT – or rather with Senator BRIGHT’S indorsement. This whetted my desire of knowledge, and I ran my eye over the paper in question, which was from the pen of a Minnesota Judge and was without exception the richest document I ever saw intended for a judicial or administrative tribunal. The substance of it was that the opinion of the Attorney-General CUSHING in the case was absurd, the adoption of his views by the Interior Department preposterous, and the action of the local Land office at Superior, in defining the status of certain half-breed Indians on the most abundant testimony, corrupt. It was clear enough that such a document required at least a senatorial indorsement to justify its reception. Nobody can suppose for a moment that Senator BRIGHT has any interest in the result of the case, or that he expected to influence the judgement of his friend, HENDRICKS, (Commissioner of the General Land Office,) by appearing in it. That would be too strong an inference to draw from so meek a fact ; and yet the malicious might suggest it as an apprehension.

Eye of the Northwest, pg. 8

Original Proprietors of Superior featuring James Stinson, Benjamin Thomson, Dr. W.W. Coran, U.S. Senator Robert J Walker, George W. Cass, and Horace Bridge.  Featured in The Eye of the North-west, pg. 8.

From the printed argument of Senator BRIGHT’S friend, and from a private abstract of the testimony in the case, and a few items I have picked up in the Land Office, I think it will be in my power to indite an epistle that may excite some attention. At the Southwestern extremity of Lake Superior, there is a tract of land, which is expected some day to become the cite of a large city. Being aware of its great advantages for this purpose, a St. Paul speculator by the name of THOMPSON, and a Canadian operator by the name of STINSON, undertook to possess themselves of it as long as as in the early part of General PIERCE‘S administration, by vicarious preemptions. In this plan they were assisted by some official gentlement, who shared in the spoils, and patents were ground out in double-quick time, or certificates issued to Swedes and Indians for the benefit of this STINSON and THOMPSON, and their associate speculators.

More Proprietors of Supeior from The Eye of the North-west, pg. 9.

More Proprietors of Supeior from The Eye of the North-west, pg. 9.

In the Summer of 1854, this Mr. STINSON, headed a gang of Swedes and led them from Swede Lake, in the Territory of Minnesota, to Lake Superior, guiding them in person to the tracts he wished them to preempt. These men were ignorant of our language and of our laws, and were used by STINSON to “settle” their tracts, “prove up” their claims, and “convey” to him, the said STINSON, without knowing either the frauds they were practicing, or the rights which they might have secured to themselves if they had been acting in good faith. In the Land Office at Hudson, where these frauds were perpetrated, there was a notary public, who drew the deeds to STINSON, got the signatures of the Swedes to them and took the acknowledgements, immediately after the preemption oath had been administered – the Swedes thinking the whole operation a part of the preemption process. The terms were said to be $30 a month, and a bonus of $15 on the consummation of the bargain. The names of these Swedes were Aaron Peterson, Martin Larson, Peter Nelson, John Johnson, Sven Magnassan, Lorenz Johnson, Peter Norell, Sven Larson, Andreas Senson, Johannes Helon, Johannes Peterson, and Peter Erickson. These “preemptors,” for their own benefit, all “proved up” at Hudson, and the very same day they made conveyances to STINSON. The same thing is true of another Swedish invasion that was made in the Summer of 1855. In that year three Swedes – Old Westerland, Andrew Walmart, and Israel Janssen – commenced their settlements June 11, proved up June 22, and conveyed to STINSON June 22 – eleven days being sufficient for the whole operation. The records of the Land Office at Superior, and of the Register of Deeds of Douglas County, show these facts. They are well known in the General Land Office.

But Mr. STINSON did not operate through Swedes alone. He and his friend THOMPSON worked with half-breed Indians also. In March, 1854, he and THOMPSON followed up the Government Surveys with a gang of Chippewa half-breed Indians. The whole gang made preemptions in Douglas County, under the guidance of THOMPSON and STINSON, who hired them at La Pointe, and convered a large portion of a township with their fraudulent pre-emptions, which were proved up simultaneously, and simultaneously conveyed to the attorney of THOMPSON and STINSON. The names of all of this gang appear on the tract books in the General Land Office. These were Joseph Lamoureaux, Joseph Defaut, Joseph Dennis, Joseph Gauthier, Francis Decoteau, John B. Goslin, George D. Morrison and Levi B. Coffee, all preemptors for these land-sharks. There were three or four more half-breeds in the gang, who ran foul of some eight or ten American citizens who were seeking to save a slice of this Territory from Swedish and Indian preemption, and lay out a town site there under the law. This was the origin of the Superior City controversy, which has been pending some three or four years in the various land offices, and which has accumulated the basket of papers which first drew my attention to a case of such interesting dimensions. The contest is nominally between three or four Chippewa half-breeds claiming some three hundred acres as a town site. But the Indians are not merely bogus citizens, they are bogus pre-emptors in the bargain, for they were the hired men of THOMPSON & STINSON.

The Dred Scott v. Sandford case influenced whether former (non-white) slaves residents of the United States could ever achieve status and rights (such as acquiring land) as citizens of America or not.  It is safe to presume that Cushing was quite familiar with the status and politics of Lake Superior Chippewa mixed acting as quasi-citizens of the United States from his time there during the 1840s.

Mr. CUSHING decided in this controversy, before it was so settled by the Dred Scott case, that a half-breed Indian, receiving annuities as such, recognized as a dependent of a tribe, and the beneficiary of treaty stipulations, could become a citizen of the United States only by some positive act of Federal legislation ; that he could not, of his own volition, or by the laws of a State, change his condition from that of an Indian to that of a Federal citizen. Strange as it may seem, it appears that this part of the Dred Scott is repudiated by Mr. Commissioner HENDRICKS, who thinks a state cannot make a Federal citizen of a man with a drop of negro blood in his veins, but that the Commissioner of the General Land Office may naturalize Indians, ad libitum, without statute or judgement to sustain him.

I am curious to see how this controversy will be decided. The General Land Office upheld STINTSON’S Swedish preemption, on the ground that the frauds were discovered too late for the Commissioner to interefere. Whether or not STINSON hasmade any negro preemptions does not appear. It was too cold at the end of the lake for negroes to flourish much. But now it is to be settled in a case where the attempted frauds have been seasonably discovered, whether or not a Canadian adventurer can preempt whole townships of the Public Lands by the agency of a gang of half-breed Indians, and procure patents for them when the facts are known to the Federal authorities.


The pre-emptive right. Homesteads.

~ Superior, Wisconsin, papers, 1831-1942 ([unpublished])

Detail of Superior City townsite at the head of Lake Superior from 1854 Plat Map of Township 49 North Range 14 West.

Detail of Superior City townsite at the head of Lake Superior from Stuntz’s 1854 Plat Map of Township 49 North Range 14 West.

Early history of Superior should make mention of this right of acquisition, since there under, titles to government land were derived. Any qualified person might acquire title to one hundred and sixty acres of land by settling thereon, erecting a dwelling and making other improvements. Such person was to be twenty-one years of age, either male or female, or the head of a family whether man or woman.

Proof of each settlement was required to be made on a certain day at the United State Land Office and upon the payment of two hundred dollars with the taking of a required oath, the preemptioner got his one hundred and sixty acres of land.

But the whole proceeding, was far from straight, as a general thing, and in fact often amounted to a fraud.

In the words of George R. Stuntz:
“In the first place, Superior was backed by a powerful company of Democratic politicians and Government bankers in Washington, while the northern and northeastern portions of the state were still held by the Indians. This Superior company sought a connection with the Mississippi river, to obtain which they urged in congress the passage of a land grant bill, offering ten sections to the mile to aid in the construction of a railroad from Milwaukee to some point on Lake St. Croix, on the western boundary of the state of Wisconsin.”
History of Duluth and St. Louis County, Past and Present,
Volume 1, page 230.
U.S. Representative John Cabell Breckinridge of Kentucky and U.S. Congressman Henry Mower Rice of Minnesota were both Democrats and both invested in land claims near Superior City.
The Barber familiy members appear to have been Republicans.

Hence the whole country, in and about Superior, was dotted with preemption cabins, which were little more than logs piles up in walls, without floors, or windows, often with brush for a roof, a hole therein for a chimney and perhaps for a door. A slashing of half an acre or so of trees was the “improvement” so called. A very barbarous travesty, it was, upon a white man’s home and farm. Here is an instance, where as was said, a certain doctor of divinity laid claim to a quarter section of land, now in the midst of this city.

One day he sought “to prove up” his preemption, and one Alfred Allen was his witness, and they asked Allen, “Was the pre-emptions shanty good to live in?“, the law requiring a good habitable house on the claim.  And Alf said “Yes, good for mosquitoes.” The Reverend said “Pshaw! Pshaw!” Meanding to upbraid or caution the witness who thereupon only protested and adjured the harder. The difficulty was somehow smoothed over, through some mending of the proofs, and perhaps connivance on the part of persons charged with administration of the United States land laws.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to member that upon rude and rough proceedings, such as are herein alluded to, rest at bottom the titles and claims to everything we own in the nature of lots, blocks, and land.

From: Statements of Hiram Hayes. Mr. Hayes came to Superior in 1854.


History of Duluth and St. Louis County, Past and Present, Volume 1

By Dwight Edwards Woodbridge, et al, 1910

GEORGE R. STUNTZ. [pages 229-231]

One of the earliest settlers at the head of the lakes was Mr. George E. Stuntz, who a short time ago joined the great majority. Before his death Mr. Stuntz wrote of his pioneer experiences as follows:

“In July, 1852, I came to the head of Lake Superior to run the land lines and subdivide certain townships. When I arrived at the head of the lakes there was nothing in Duluth or Superior. There was no settlement. The old American Fur Company had a post at La Pointe, at the west side of Madeline Island.

Detail of Minnesota Point during Stuntz's survey contract during August-October of 1852.

Detail of Minnesota Point from Stuntz’s Exterior Field Notes (August-October of 1852).

“In 1853 I got the range subdivided, and also in Superior, townsite 49, range 13. During the same year, later, in my absence, there came parties from the copper district of upper Michigan and located claims upon the range. They were principally miners. During the same year I built a residence on Minnesota Point under treaty license before the territory was sold to the Government. At that time there were only missionaries or license traders in the tract, as it belonged to the original Indian territory. In 1852, at Fond du Lac, there was a trading post and warehouse, in which I stored my goods on my arrival. In the fall of 1853 I bought three yoke of cattle and two cows at St. Croix Falls and brought them to the mouth of the Iron river, and had to cut a road thirty miles through the dense forest so as to get the oxen, cows and cart through. Later in the fall of 1853 I came through with an extra yoke of oxen, buying provisions, etc., and on coming up to Superior I found quite a settlement of log cabins. These settlers were anxious to get to the United States land office, then at Hudson, Wis. A dense forest intervened. We organized a volunteer company in January, 1854, to cut a road from old Superior to the nearest lumber camp on the St. Croix river, I furnishing two barrels of flour, provisions, pony and dog train, necessary to carry the provisions for a gang of seventeen men. The road was completed in twenty days, the snow being at that time two feet deep. This cut through a direct road to Taylor’s Falls and Stillwater. In 1854 I completed a mill on the Iron river and employed a man to superintend it, and I remained at Minnesota Point, my trading post, where I had first taken out the license. In the same year I took a contract to subdivide two townships located in Superior, townships 48-49, range 15, and afterward I attended the treaty at the time the Indians sold this country to the Government.

Before the 1854 Treaty of La Pointe could be ratified in Washington, D.C., the oral description agreed upon during the negotiations for exterior boundaries of the Chippewa treaties had to be surveyed with the tribe, documented, and delivered to Washington, D.C. before 1855.  It is not clear who was involved with the exterior boundaries of these reservations; whether it was Stuntz, Barber, and/or others from their party.

“There were 5,000 Indians present with their chiefs. It was the biggest assemblage of Indians ever held at Lake Superior at this period of the country’s history. It took a month to pacify the troubles that grew among the different tribes in regard to their proportionate rights. This treaty was sent to congress September [30], 1854, and was ratified and became law in January, 1855.


 To be continued in 1854

By Leo Filipczak

When we last checked in with Joseph Austrian, or Doodooshaaboo (milk) as he was known in these parts, we saw some interesting stories and insights about La Pointe in 1851.  The later La Pointe stories, however, are where the really good stuff is.

Austrian’s brief stay on the island came at arguably one of the most important periods in our area’s history, spanning from a few months after the Sandy Lake Tragedy, until just after Chief Buffalo’s return from Washington D.C.  Whether young Joseph realized it or not, he recorded some valuable history.  In his memoir, we see information about white settlement and land speculation prior to the Treaty of 1854, as well as corroborating accounts of the La Pointe and Bayfield stories found in the works of Carl Scherzer and Benjamin Armstrong.

Most importantly, there is a dramatic scene of a showdown between the Lake Superior chiefs and Agent John Watrous, one of the architects of the Sandy Lake removal.  In this, we are privileged to read the most direct and succinct condemnation of the government, I’ve ever seen from Chief Buffalo.  It is a statement that probably deserves to be memorialized alongside Flat Mouth’s scathing letter to Governor Ramsey.    

So, without further ado, here is the second and final installment of Joseph Austrian’s memoirs of La Pointe, and fifth of this series.  Enjoy:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~   

 

Memoirs of Doodooshaboo

… continued from La Pointe 1851-1852 (Part 1).

 

Scherzer, Noted Traveller Pays Us a Visit.  1851.

Carl Scherzer and his companion Moritz Wagner recorded their travels in Reisen in Nordamerkia in der Jahren 1852 und 1853.  An e-translation of Chapter 21 appeared in English for the first time this fall on the Chequamegon History website.  You can read it here, here, and here.  The second installment records his time with Joseph Austrian.  From Austrian’s account, it appears Wagner did not accompany Scherzer through the Lake Superior country.  (Wikimedia Images)

During this summer a noted Austrian traveler Carl Scherzer arrived one Sept. night.  He had been commissioned by the “Academy of Science” of Vienna (a Government Institution) to make a tour of America to familiarize himself with the country and gather information to write a book for the Academy. This interesting book which he wrote is called “Scherzer’s Reisen.”  Mr. S. sent me a copy of this book which I have in my library.  In this book, mention is made of me and my cordial reception of him and his travelling companion, an Attache of the French Legation of Washington who accompanied him on his trip.  Scherzer was a highly educated gentleman, cultured and charming, tall and of imposing appearance.  Scherzer arrived at La Pointe at midnight coming from Ontonagan 90 miles in a small row boat.  To his dismay, he found that there was not a hotel in the place.  The boatman told him that he thought that one Austrian might give him shelter for the night, so he came to the house and knocked at the door.  Henry Schmitz, my fellow employee, who roomed with me opened the door and called out “Joe step auf freund von below sind da,” whereupon I cordially invited them to enter and made them as comfortable as possible.  They remained with us about three days and profoundly appreciated our hospitality.  Even making mention of it later on in his book.  Once on going to a fishing boat for our supply of fish, Scherzer went with me and begged the privilege of carrying two of the large fine white fish, one suspended from each hand.  He much enjoyed meeting the good Father Skolla, his country-mate, also an Austrian, and from him obtained more valuable and authentic information concerning that part of Lake Superior country that he could have otherwise gained.  From La Point Scherzer planned to go to St. Paul.  There were no railroads here at that time.  There were but two roads leading to St. Paul.  One was simply a footpath of several hundred miles through the woods.  The other led via St. Croix [Brule?] & St. Croix river shortening the foot travel considerably.  Scherzer chose the latter road.  I fitted out for him, at his request, a birch bark canoe and utensils and all necessary for the trip and Scherzer and his companion started on their way to St. Paul.

In Reisen in Nordamerika, Scherzer contradicts Austrian’s statement that the voyageurs who brought the travel writer from Ontanagon also brought him down the Brule and St. Croix.  The men who departed with him from La Pointe are identified only as Souverain, an older man, and Jean-Baptise, a young man.  Souverain Denis is the likely suspect for the captain, and if Austrian is correct here, it appears Jean-Baptise Belanger (Balange) was his partner.

He had engaged one “Balange” their voyageur who had brought them from Ontonoagan and a friend of his to take them through.  They were well acquainted with the route which at times necessitated their carrying the canoes around through the woods across the portage, where the river was inaccessible through rapids, obstacles and otherwise.  Scherzer arrived at St. Paul safely and wrote thanking me for my assistance and requesting me to send him a copy of the wording of a French rowing song (the oarsmen usually sang keeping time with their oars).  I sent it to him and received a letter of thanks from New Orleans whence he had gone from St. Paul by steamer via the Mississippi River.  This song is embodied in his book also.

A Steamer was a rare occurrence at La Point and when one did come, we often got up an Indian war dance or other Indian exhibit for the amusement of its passengers, and which they enjoyed greatly.  In the fall of the year steamers were sometimes driven there by the storms prevailing on the lakes, as the harbor offered the best of shelter.  We kept a good supply of cord wood on the dock which we sold to the steamers when they needed fuel.

 

Indians Decline to be Removed by Gov.  I attend Grand Council.  1851.

Although the Government had botched the previous year’s removal, leading to hundreds of deaths, John Watrous illegally told the Ojibwe chiefs in 1851 that they would have to remove to Sandy Lake again.  The Lake Superior bands adamantly refused.  Some of the details here, however, suggest that this may actually depict the Buffalo-Watrous showdown, over the same issue, that occurred at La Pointe in the summer of 1852.  Scherzer’s visit, described above, was in 1852, but Austrian (writing over fifty years later) puts it in 1851.  For more on the politics of the years following Sandy Lake, read (Paap, Howard D. Red Cliff, Wisconsin: A History of an Ojibwe Community. St. Cloud, MN: North Star, 2013.), and Bruce White’s section of (McClurken, James M., and Charles E. Cleland. Fish in the Lakes, Wild Rice, and Game in Abundance: Testimony on Behalf of Mille Lacs Ojibwe Hunting and Fishing Rights / James M. McClurken, Compiler ; with Charles E. Cleland … [et Al.]. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State UP, 2000).

During the first summer of my stay at La Point, the Indian Agent, Mr. Watrous was directed by the Secretary of the Indian Dept. at Washington to summon the chiefs of that part of the Chippewa tribe residing in the vicinity of Bad River, Bayfield, & Red River for a council.  The Agent accordingly sent runners around to the chiefs of the different lodges some of which were quite remote, summoning them to meet him on a certain day at La Point.  They came in obedience to the summons many bringing their squaws, papooses and their Indians of their lodges with them.  Near the lake shore the put up their wigwams, which were made of birch bark leaving an opening over hung with a blanket which served as a doorway.  It made an interesting Indian settlement.  The meeting was held on the appointed day, in my brother’s store which was a long wooden structure.  When the meeting opened the chiefs sat on the floor arranged along the left side of the room, with their blankets wrapped around them, and each one smoking a long stemmed pipe, which they make themselves, the sign of peace, many ornamented with paint and feathers.  On the other side of the room was seated the Indian Agent with an interpreter who translated what either had said.

I naturally felt greatly interested in witnessing their proceedings.  The President of the U. S. was known by the Indians as the Great Father and the Agent addressed them telling them what the Great Father wanted of them; namely that they remove from their reservations to interior points in order to make room for while settlers; pointing out to them that the proposed location was more suited for them, there being good fishing and hunting grounds.  The government offered to pay them besides certain annuities, partly in money and partly in Indian goods–such as blankets, cotton, beads, provisions, etc.  The proposition of the Government was met with murmurs of disapproval by the chiefs & Indians present, and Chief Buffalo made a most eloquent and impassioned speech saying,

“Go back to the ‘Great Father’ and tell him to keep the money and his goods.  We do not want them but we wish to be left in peace.  Tell him we will not move from the land that is our own, that we have always been peaceable and were always happy until the white man came among our people and sold ‘Matchie Mushkiki [majimashkiki (bad medicine)]’ (poison-whiskey) to them.“

(The real name of whiskey in Indian is “Ushkota wawa [ishkodewaaboo]” – fire water).

The Indians did remain and to this day are still occupying the same land.  I was present at this meeting and it so impressed me, that although it took place over fifty years ago it is still vivid in my mind.  Later on the Government encouraged the same Indians to engage in farming work on the reservation, and furnishing them with implements and seeds for that purpose, and in the course of a few years they had their own little farms on which they raised potatoes and other vegetables easily cultivated.  Schools also were established by the Government.  One of their large settlements today is on Bad River, and not far from Ashland Wis., known by the name of Odana.

 

Brother Marx Experience with Indians.  1851 .

Marx Austrian did not immigrate until 1853, or marry his first wife Malea until a year later.  His received a land patent for this claim from the General Land Office in Superior City during 1857.  This would date his pre-emption to the winter of 1855-1856, a few months before Bayfield was established by the Bayfield Land Company, not 1851.
Exciting research is being done on the land speculation and corruption in this area (much of it involving the Austrian brothers), just before and after the Treaty of 1854.  It was Henry M. Rice, richer and more powerful than even Julius Austrian, who eventually cashed in on the plots that became Bayfield.

Our blind brother Marx Austrian with brother Julius’ assistance at that time, preempted 160 acres of land near Bayfield from La Point, complying with preemption laws.  He built a small log house living there with his wife.  One night during their first winter in their new house, there was a knock at the door, and when opened they were confronted by a number of Indians, who were evidently under the influence of liquor and who swinging their tomahawks vigorously, making all sorts of threatening demands.  An old Indian who knew Marx interceded and enabled him and his wife to escape without injury who thoroughly scared fled panic stricken in the dark about two miles at night, over the ice, on the Bay which was covered with a foot of snow to La Point for safety.  The poor woman having the hazardous task of leading her blind husband over this long and difficult road, not to come back again and glad to escape with their lives and thus abandoning their right of preemption.  This place was later on platted and is now known as the Bayfield Addition.

 

My Experience in Lumbering

Brother Julius had a small saw mill operated by water power about two miles back of Bayfield on Pike’s Creek, near which were Pine lands.  In the winter I was sent with some woodsmen to look after the cutting and hauling of Pine logs for the mill.  These logs were hauled by ox teams to the mill.  In the spring I was again sent there to assist in the sawing of these logs into lumber.  We lived in a little log hut near by.  When the snow melted toward spring time, the creek was high and swollen.  One day the force of the waters burst through the dam, carrying it away and the great volume of water rushing down cut a new channel in the bed of which had become a river, and undermining to foundation of our little log house causing it to topple over into it, also carrying away the logs, many of which floated down into Lake Superior and were lost.

Jewish-immigrant brothers, Julius and Joseph Austrian, were prominent La Pointe residents at this time.

Pg. 218-219 (Armstrong, Benj G., and Thomas P. Wentworth. Early Life among the Indians: Reminiscences from the Life of Benj. G. Armstrong : Treaties of 1835, 1837, 1842 and 1854 : Habits and Customs of the Red Men of the Forest : Incidents, Biographical Sketches, Battles, &c. Ashland, WI: Press of A.W. Bowron, 1892).

In the winter when logging was going on, once I was sent across from La Point with a heavy load of provisions and supplies for the men.  This was loaded on a so called “Canadian flat sleigh.”  The road on the way to the mill led down a very steep high hill which half way down had a sharp bend and at this curve stood a tree.  After having started down the hill, the horse was not strong enough to hold back the load, which got the better of him, and pushed him swiftly down the hill with his hind legs dragging after him wedging him against and partly into the tree with his front legs up in the air.  I could not move the heavily laden sleigh with the horse wedged in so tightly I found it impossible to extricate him, and had to go to the mill for assistance.  The sled had to be unloaded before we could free the horse.  See Armstrong’s book in which mention and illustration is given of this as “Austrian up the tree.”  The book is in my library.

 

Ferrying Oxen Across the Bay in Row Boat.

My brother Julius had also a large tract of meadow land on Bad River, where he had a number of men employed in making hay, in order to gather this hay for stacking, a span of cattle and a wagon were needed to haul it.  There being no other means of ferrying them across the bay, one of the large Mackinaw boats of about twenty-five feet keel by six feet beam had to be used to get these over to the other side across a distance of about three miles to the mainland from where they could be driven to the meadow.  I was commissioned to attend to this assisted by four competent boatmen, we finally managed with coaxing and skill to get the two big oxen into the boat, standing them crosswise in it.  We tied their horns to the opposite side of the boat.  The width of the boat was not sufficient to allow them to stand in their natural position which made them restless.  The first thing we knew one of the oxen raised his hind leg and stuck it out over the side of the boat into the water, his other leg soon followed and we had aboard an ox half in the boat, with the weight of his body resting on and threatening to capsize the boat.  We quickly cut the rope which held his head and he fell backward overboard floundering in the water.  Little did I think that we would see the ox alive again.  Imagine my surprise on my return to the Island to find he had swam back to shore safe and sound.  When the other ox saw his mate go overboard, he tried to follow and it required much coaxing and extra feeding to restrain him and finally landed him all right on the opposite shore.

 

Lost in the Woods

Ervin Barnes Leihy was one of first American settlers of this area whose primary employment was not specifically the Indian trade or the missions.

I returned to the Island and the next morning I started for the meadow fields in a birch bark canoe with a Mr. Lehigh who had a little saw mill about five miles up Bad River.  We were obliged to sit in the bottom of the little boat in a most uncomfortable and cramped position, having been warned by the boatman in charge not to move as the least motion is apt to cause the frail craft to capsize.  On arrival at the meadow I found the men busily at work.  They were about to take dinner and I gladly consented to join them, and being hungry relished the spread of fried pork, crackers, and tea.  My companion Mr. Lehigh was bound for his little saw mill up the river where he lived, and I having business to attend to there started with him on a foot trail through the woods.  He loitered on the way picking wild raspberries, just ripe and tempting, but musquitos were thick and vicious and pestered us terribly.  I not being accustomed suffered more than my companion.  Asking him the distance we were still to go, and on his telling me three miles, I became impatient and went ahead alone to get away from the musquitos.  After walking on some time I came to a potato field into which the trail led, but was concealed by the high vines.  Crossing the field I struck a trail on the other side and took for granted it was the one leading to the mill.  On and on I went when it struck me that I had gone further than the three miles, and it dawned on me that I must have taken the wrong path from the potato field and I concluded to turn back and try to reach the meadow.  The sun had gone down, it grew dusk very soon amongst the tall pine and maple trees, in the dense forrest.  It grew so dark that I could not see my trail and became entangled in the underbrush and roots of trees, tripping and falling many times.  I had with me my double barrel shot gun, both barrels being loaded I shot these off to attract Lehigh’s attention. I listened breathlessly for some answer but there was no sign of a human soul and I became thoroughly frightened at the prospect of being lost in the woods but resolved to make the best of it.  I stumbled around and found a log hut near by, which had been put up for temporary use by the Indians in sugar making time.  I had neither matches nor ammunition, by feeling around, I discovered that what had been the doorway was closed up with birch bark. By climbing up I also discovered that the roof had been taken off the hut and I let myself down to see what might be inside.  I found there three rolls of birch bark and a rude bench made of rough poles laid along on one side lengthwise about a foot along the floor, which served as seats for the Indians while boiling the maple sap.  Being tired out I laid down on the rough bench and tried to rest, tying a handkerchief over my face, and with each hand up in the boot sleeves to protect myself from large and ravenous musquitos which tortured me nigh to desperation.  Having no matches with me to kindle a fire or create a smoke I was entirely at their mercy.  Presently I heard a noise on the outside as though of something stealthily climbing over the wall.  The moon was then shining brightly, the sky was clear and on looking up I saw the outlines of a young bear sticking his head over the wall looking down on me.  I sprang up and as I did so the bear jumped back and ran off.  No doubt the odor of the sugar attracted him more than I did.  Under these circumstances rest was out of the question.  I climbed out of the hut and made another attempt to find the lost trail by moonlight, crawling on hands and feet in some places.  In doing so, I placed my gun against a tree and had a hard time to find it again.  I decided there was no use to trip further and climbed back in the hut to stay there till day-light, then with renewed effort after repeated disappointment I finally struck a trail, but at this point I was confused and at a loss to know which direction to take.  I reached a steep hill that I did not remember having passed the day before.  As a last resort I ran up this hill and hallowed & yelled.  An answer came from the valley, from me working there.  Following the sound I reached the meadow.  My face was so swollen from the musquito bites that I was a sight to behold.  After resting and partaking of some food, I again started out for Lehigh’s place one of the me volunteering to show me the way and I arrived there a couple of hours after, and found that it was only one mile from the potato field where I had lost the trail.

For many miles in all other directions in this dense forrest there was not a single habitation nor likelihood of meeting with a soul and here a short time ago a man had been lost and never heard from again.  Hence I was lucky indeed to have found my way out of the woods.  Lehigh cooly informed me that when I saw him that he heard the report of my gun, but had paid no heed to it thinking I would eventually turn up.

 

Lost on the Ice and Night

Alexis was a common name among the mix-blooded families of La Pointe.  Alexis Carpenter Sr. was probably Julius Austrian’s trusted Frenchman.  This was probably Alexis Carpenter, Sr.

One time during the winter Brother Julius sent me with his trusted Frenchman Alexis, to look up certain Indians who owed him for goods and whom he thought would have considerable fur.  This tramp meant about ten miles each way through the woods on an Indian trail the ground being covered with snow.  Taking our faithful dog, who had been trained to hauling with the little toboggan sled, on which to bring back the fur which he hoped to get in payment for our debt.  We started from La Point, and I met with good success gathering quite a little fur.  On our return we reached the Bay shore late in the evening from where we had four or five miles to cross on the ice in order to reach the Island.  We rested for about an hour at an Indian wigwam and partook of some tea (such as it was) that the Indian squaw made for us and then started on. Alexis, acting as pilot went ahead, followed by the dog & then by me.  It was a clear cold night the moon shown brightly, but about half an hour afterwards snow clouds sprang up shutting out the moonlight, Still we pushed ahead.  Soon however Alexis lost his bearings and was uncertain as to direction, but on we went for several hours without reaching the Island.  Presently we encountered ice roughly broken and piled high by the force of a gale from the open lake, which indicated that we were too near the open water and that we had gone too far around the Island instead of the straight for La Point.  We stumbled along, and after having been out about two hours on the ice, with continued walking we managed to reach the shore and with guidance of Alexis tramped along toward La Point reaching there two hours afterwards almost exhausted by the hardships we had endured.

 

Trip to Ontonagon in Row Boat for Winter Supplies.  1851

It was in 1851 when brother Julius expected the last boat of the season would touch at La Point which was usually the case and deliver all his supplies but the quantity was not sufficient to induce the Captain to run in there and consequently he skipped La Pointe, thus leaving us short of necessary provisions for the winter, hence it was necessary to procure the same as best we could.  I was commissioned by my brother Julius to undertake the job which I did by manning a mackinaw boat with five voyageurs.  The boat was loaded with as many barrels of fish as we could carry.  We started for Ontonagon about the middle of November, intending to trade the fish for supplies required.  It was cold, the ground frozen and covered with snow. The wind was fair.  We hoisted our two sails and made good time reaching Montreal River late in the evening where we ran in and tied up for the night.  We had no tent with us but found a deserted log house by the river in which we spent the night.  There was a large open fire place, and my man cutting down a dry tree kindled a brisk wood fire in the fire place.  I slipped into a rough bunk in the room wrapped myself in my blankets and tried to sleep, but in vain.  The smoke from the fire was so dense it nearly suffocated me.  My met lighting a few tallow candles amused themselves playing cards until late at night.

The next morning early, we set sail and again had fair wind, reaching Iron River about noon and Ontonagon that night, next day succeeded in exchanging my fish for provisions and the following day started on our return trip to La Point.  We had mostly fair wind and reached there on the third day in good shape.

 

Another Trip to Ontonagon for Provisions.  1852.

The following year, in 1852, I agains made a similar trip for like reasons but did not have nearly as good luck as on the previous trip.  It was fraught with some danger and combined with a great deal of hardship.  The distance from La Point to Ontonagon is nearly 100 miles, all exposed to the storms of Lake Superior which in the Fall are generally very severe.  On our first day out we encountered a severe snow storm, which compelled us to make a landing near the mouth of Bad River to save the boat, which was threatened to be dashed to pieces on the shore or carried out into the open lake.  So she had to be beached and in order to do this her cargo of fish had all to be thrown overboard when we touched the beach, to lighten her and when this was done she was hauled up on the beach with a block and tackle and fastened to stump of a tree.  The boatmen had to go almost waist deep in the water and roll the heavy barrels up on the beach.  After completing the landing we sought shelter in the nearby woods from the raging storm, we were not equipped for camping, so we took the sail from the boat and stretched it over as far as it would reach for our own protection.  As before the men cut down a dead tree kindled a fire, hanging over it our camp kettle, made tea, tried some pork and this together with some crackers with which we were supplied composed our supper.  To get further away from the wind and snow we had gone further back into the woods to find some protection and there we rolled ourselves in our grey blankets and laid down keeping our faces under the protection of the sail as much as possible.  Being very much exhausted, we fell asleep, in spite of unfavorable conditions.  Toward morning when I awoke I tried to pull my blanket over me a little more but found I could not move it, and discovered that the snow had drifted over us to such an extent that we were fairly buried in it, nothing visible but part of our faces, our breath having kept that free for the time.  After daybreak we again started a fire, and this made things worse as the heat melted the snow on the trees around and water dripped down on our blankets, getting them wet.  We had to hang them near the fire to dry as we collected them later on.  They fairly steamed and we were delayed a whole day in getting arrangements completed to start again on our trip.  Toward morning the wind had subsided considerably, and the snow storm had abated somewhat and again we ventured on our trip.  After going through the same routine of reloading as on our previous occasion.  At 10 A.m. we started on our perilous voyage making good head way, the wind being favorable.  We reached Iron River after midnight.  We detected an Indian wigwam near by, thinking we might be able to get something to eat.  We tied up and investigated.  We peeped into the wigwam and found the same occupied with an Indian family.  The Indian squaw and papooses all tight asleep.  Not wishing to arouse them or to lose further time we moved on stopping early the next morning in a small bay on our route.  Kindling a fire as previously described, preparing a meager breakfast , the best scant supplies would permit.  These boatmen were accustomed to cooking (such as it was) as well as boating it being often a necessity, as they were accustomed to make long coasting trips in the pioneer days of the Lake Superior regions, which was sparsely settled and vessels were very scarce.  Supplies and all merchandise had to be transported all the way from Detroit to Lake Superior on those small Mackinaw boats.  After breakfast we set sail and continued our journey with fair wind enabling us to make good time, but it had grown bitterly cold and as we were but poorly protected for such severe weather.  It cost us untold suffering.

We finally reached Ontonagon River after dark, and to our great consternation found that the river was frozen over about an inch thick with ice.  This was not easy to break through with flimsy craft, but desperation gave strength to our men and they were equal to the situation.  With their heavy oars they pounded and broke the ice managing finally to get inside of the river to the dock of the merchant with whom I expected to do my trading in the town of Ontonagon, which was the Lakeport for the Minnesota and other copper mines in that vicinity, at that time being just developed.  On the following morning I attended to the selling of the load of fish, purchased our supplies and intending to start back for La Point the next morning.

 

Ordered to go to Eagle River.  1852.

Closely connected by marriage and business, the Bavarian-Jewish families Austrian and Leopold became titans of Great Lakes shipping.

In the meantime the propeller Napoleon arrived from there bringing for me a letter from brother Julius, instructing me if still in Ontonagon to take this steamer for Eagle River and to enter the employ of Mr. Henry Leopold, who had a small store there.  His man had left suddenly and he was anxious for my services.  I started for Eagle River just as I was and not until the following spring did I get my trunk.  I began working for Mr. Leopold as bookkeeper and general clerk, and thus abruptly terminated my business career at La Point.  My boatmen under direction of Mr. Henry Schmitz started without me on their return trip to La Point as planned when between Montreal River and Bad River, they encountered a terrific gale and snow storm.  It was so severe that to remain outside meant to be lost, and as a last resort, they ran their boat through the breakers, trying to beach her.  She was swamped with all the supplies, and tossed up on the beach and had to be abandoned for the time being.  Later on another boat was sent on from La Point to get the damaged cargo.  The Napoleon got abreast of Eagle River, this place being on the open shore of Lake Superior without any protection, it being too rough there for the boat to make a landing, therefore she went on to Eagle Harbor, about nine miles distant, where she could safely land.  On arrival there I put up at Charley King boarding house for the night.

To be continued after La Pointe 1852-1854

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Special thanks to Amorin Mello and Joseph Skulan for sharing this document and their important research on the Austrian brothers and their associates with me.  It is to their credit that these stories see the light of day.  This is the end of the La Pointe section, but the original handwritten memoir of Joseph Austrian is held by the Chicago History Museum and contains many interesting stories from the life of this brief resident of La Pointe.

By Leo Filipczak

Joseph Oesterreicher was only eighteen years old when he arrived at La Pointe in 1851.  Less than a year earlier, he had left his native Germany for Mackinac, where he’d come to work for the firm of his older brother Julius and their in-laws, the Leopolds, another Bavarian Jewish family trading on Lake Superior.

In America, the Oesterreichers became the Austrians, but in his time at Mackinac, Joseph Austrian picked up very little English and even less of the Ojibwe and Metis-French that predominated at La Pointe.  So, when Joseph made the move to his brother’s store at Madeline Island, it probably felt like he was immigrating all over again.

In the spring of 1851, he would have found at La Pointe, a society in flux.  American settlement intensified as the fur trade economy made its last gasps.  The island’s mix-blooded voyageurs found it harder and harder to make a living, and the Fur Company, and smaller traders like Julius Austrian, began to focus more on getting Ojibwe money from treaty annuity payments than they did from the actual trade in fur.  This competition for Indian money had led to the deaths of hundreds of Ojibwe people in the Sandy Lake tragedy just a few months earlier.  

The uncertainty surrounding Ojibwe removal would continue to hang heavily over the Island for both of Joseph’s years at La Pointe, as the Ojibwe leadership scrambled to process the horror of Sandy Lake and tried to secure a permanent homeland on the lakeshore.

The Austrians, however, found this an opportune time to be at the forefront of all the new business ventures in the Lake Superior country.  They made money in merchandise, real estate, shipping, mining, lumber, government contracts, and every other way they could.  This was not without controversy, and the name of Julius Austrian is frequently attached to documents showing the web of corruption and exploitation of Native people that characterized this era.  

It’s difficult to say whether Joseph realized in 1851, while sweeping out his brother’s store or earning his unfortunate nickname, but he would become a very wealthy man.  He lived into the 20th century and left a long and colorful memoir.  I plan to transcribe and post all the stories from pages 26-66, which consists of Joseph’s time at La Pointe.  Here is the first fourth [our original] installment:  

 

Memoirs of Doodooshaboo

… continued from Mackinac 1850-1851.

 

Left for La Point:  My First Trip on Lake Superior

1851

Julius Austrian ~ Madeline Island Museum

Julius Austrian
~ Madeline Island Museum

Mr. Julius Austrian was stationed at La Pointe, Madaline Island, one of the Apostle Group in Lake Superior, where he conducted an Indian Trading post, buying large quantities of fur and trading in fish on the premises previously occupied by the American Fur Co. whose stores, boats etc. the firm bought.

Julius Austrian, one of the partners had had charge of the store at La Point for five years past, he was at this time expected at Mackinaw and it had been arranged that I should accompany him back to La Pointe when he returned there, on the first boat of the season leaving the Sault Ste. Marie.  I was to work in the store and to assist generally in all I was capable of at the wages of $10 a month.  I gladly accepted the proposition being anxious for steady employment.  Shortly after, brother Julius, his wife (a sister of H. Leopold) and I started on the side wheel steamer Columbia for Sault Ste. Marie, generally called “The Soo,” and waited there five days until the Napoleon, a small propellor on which we intended going to La Point, was ready to sail.  During this time she was loading her cargo which had all to be transported from the Soo River to a point above the rapids across the Portage (a strip of land about ¾ of a mile connecting the two points) on a train road operated with horses.  At this time there were only two propellers and three schooners on the entire Lake Superior, and those were hauled out below the rapids and moved up and over the portage and launched in Lake Superior.  Another propeller Monticello, which was about half way across the Portage, was soon to be added to the Lake Superior fleet, which consisted of Independence & Napoleon and the Schooners Algonquin, Swallow, and Sloop Agate owned by my brother Julius.  Quite different from the present day, where a very large number of steel ships on the chain of Lakes, some as much as 8000 tons capacity, navigate through the canal to Lake Superior from the lower lakes engaged in transporting copper, iron ore, pig iron, grain & flour from the various ports of Marquette, Houghton, Hancock, Duluth, and others.  It was found necessary in later years to enlarge the locks of the canal to accomodate the larger sized vessels that had been constructed.

 

Building Sault Ste. Marie Canal.  1851.

The ship canal at that time had not been constructed, but the digging of it had just been started.  The construction of this canal employed hundreds of laborers, and it took years to complete this great piece of work, which had to be cut mostly through the solid rock.  The State of Michigan appropriated thousands of sections of land for the purpose of building this canal, for the construction of which a company was incorporated under the name of Sault Ste. Marie Ship Canal & Land Co., who received the land in payment for building this canal, and which appropriation entitled the Co. to located in any unsold government land in the State of Michigan.  The company availed itself of this privilege and selected large tracts of the best mineral and timber land in Houghton, Ontonagan & Kewanaw Counties, locating some of the land in the copper district, some of which proved afterwards of immense value, and on which were opened up some of the richest copper mines in the world, namely:  Calumet, Hecla, and Quincy mines, and others.  There were also very valuable timber lands covered by this grant.

The canal improved and enlarged as it now stands, is one of the greatest and most important artificial waterways in the world.  A greater tonnage is transported through it annually that through the Suez or any other canal.  In later years the canal was turned over by the State of Mich. to the General Government, which made it free of toll to all vessels and cargoes passing through it, even giving Canadian vessels the same privilege; whereas when operated by the State of Mich. toll was exacted from all vessels and cargoes using it.

The Napoleon, sailed by Capt. Ryder, had originally been a schooner, it had been turned into a propeller by putting in a small propeller engine.  She had the great (?) speed of 8 miles an hour in calm weather, and had the reputation of beating any boat of the Lake in rolling in rough weather, and some even said she had rolled completely over turning right side up finally.

To return to my trip, after passing White Fish Point, the following day and getting into the open lake, we encountered a strong north wind raising considerable sea, causing our boat to toss and pitch, giving us our first experience of sea sickness on the trip.  Beside the ordinary crew, we had aboard 25 horses for Ontonogan where we arrived the third day out.  The Captain finding the depth of water was not sufficient to allow the boat to go inside the Ontonogan river and there being no dock outside, he attempted to land the horses by throwing them overboard, expecting them to swim ashore, to begin with, he had three thrown overboard and had himself with a few of his men lowered in the yawl boat to follow, he caught the halter of the foremost horse intending to guide him and the others ashore. The lake was exceedingly rough, and the poor horses became panic stricken and when near the shore turned back swimming toward the boat with hard work.  The Captain finally succeeded in land those that had been thrown overboard, but finding it both hazardous to the horses and the men he concluded to give up the attempt to land the other horses in this way, and ordered the life boat hoisted up aboard.  She had to be hoisted up the stern, in doing so a heavy wave struck and knocked it against the stern of the boat before she was clear of the water with such force as to endanger the lives of the Capt. and men in it, and some of the passengers were called on to assist in helping to hoist the life boat owing to its perilous position.  Captain and the men were drenched to the skin, when they reached the deck.  Capt. vented his rage in swearing at the hard luck and was so enraged that he did not change his wet clothing for some time afterward.  The remaining horses were kept aboard to be delivered on the return trip, and the boat started for her point of destination La Point.

 

Arrived at La Point and Started in Employ of Brother Julius.  1851

Next morning we sighted land, which proved to be the outer island of the Apostle Group.  Captain flew into the wheel room and found the wheelsman fast asleep.  He grasped the wheel and steered the boat clear of the rocks, just in time to prevent the boat from striking.  Captain lost no time in changing wheelsman.  We arrived without further incidents at La Point the same afternoon.  When she unloaded her cargo, work was at once begun transferring goods to the store, in which I assisted and thus began my regular business career.  These goods were hauled to the store from the dock in a car, drawn by a horse, on wooden rails.

There were only about 6 white American inhabitants on the Island, about 50 Canadian Frenchmen who were married to squaws, and a number of full blooded Indians, among whom was chief Buffalo who was a descendant of chiefs & who was a good Indian and favorably regarded by the people.

Fr. Otto Skolla (self-portrait contained in History of the diocese of Sault Ste, Marie and Marquette (1906) by Antoine Ivan Rezek; pg.360; Digitized by Google Books)

The most conspicuous building in the place was an old Catholic Church which had been created more than 50 years before by some Austrian missionaries.  This church contained some very fine and valuable paintings by old masters.  The priest in charge there was Father Skolla, an Austrian, who himself was quite an artist, and spent his leisure hours in painting Holy pictures.  The contributions to the church amounted to a mere pittance, and his consequent poverty allowed him the most meager and scant living.  One Christmas he could not secure any candles to light up his church which made him feel very sad, my sister-in-law heard of this and sent me with a box of candles to him, which made him the happiest of mortals.  When I handed them to him, his words were inadequate to express his gratitude and praise for my brother’s wife.

 

Sherman Hall and the other A.B.C.F.M missionaries were actually Congregational-Presbyterian, but they were known to collaborate with Canadian Methodist missionaries.  The Wheeler Family correspondence from 1854 reveals that Julius Austrian and Rev. Hall were not always  on “friendly terms.”  Charles Pulsifer was a teacher in the mission school.

There was also a Methodist church of which a man by the name of Hall was the preacher.  He had several sons and his family and my brother Julius and his wife were on friendly terms and often met.

The principle man of the place was Squire Bell, a very genial gentleman who held most of the offices of the town & county, such as Justice of the Peace & Supervisor.  He also was married to a squaw.  This was the fashion of that time, there being no other women there.

John W. Bell, “King of the Apostle Islands” as described by Benjamin Armstrong (Digitized by Google Books) .

There was a school in the place for the Indians and half breeds, there being no white children there at this time.  I took lessons privately of the teacher of this school, his name was Pulsevor.  I was anxious to perfect myself in English.  I also picked up quite a bit of the Chippewa language and in very short time was able to understand enough to enable me to trade with the Indians.

My brother Julius was a very kind hearted man, of a very sympathetic and indulgent nature, and to his own detriment and loss he often trusted needy and hungry Indians for provisions and goods depending on their promise to return the following year with fur in payment for the goods.  He was personally much liked and popular with the Indians, but his business with them was not a success as the fur often failed to materialize.  The first morning after my arrival, my brother Julius handed me a milk pail and told me to go to the squaws next door, who having a cow, supplied the family with the article.  He told me to ask for “Toto-Shapo” meaning in the Indian language, milk.

Doodooshaaboo:  milk 
Makadewikonaye:  a priest
Gichi-mookomaan:  1. A white person 2.  American
Ishkode-jiimaan:  a steamboat, a ship.  Wiigiwaam:  a wigwam, a lodge
Ishkodewaaboo:  alcohol, liquor
(Ojibwe Peoples Dictionary)

I repeated this to myself over and over again, and when I asked the squaw for “Toto Shapo” she and all the squaws screamed with delight and excitement to think that I had just arrived and could make myself understood in the Indian tongue. This fact was spread among the Indians generally and from that day on while I remained on the Island I was called “Toto Shapo.”  One of the Indian characteristics is to name people and things by their first impression–for instance on seeing the first priest who work a black gown, they called him “Makada-Conyeh,” which means a black gown, and that is the only name retained in their language for priests.  The first soldier who had a sword hanging by his side they called “Kitchie Mogaman” meaning “a big knife” in their language.  The first steamboat they saw struck them as a house with fire escaping through the chimney, consequently they called it “Ushkutua wigwam” (Firehouse) which is also the only name in their language for steamboat.  Whiskey they call “Ushkutua wawa” meaning “Fire Water.”

My brother Julius had the United States mail contract between La Point & St. Croix.  The mail bag had to be taken by a man afoot between these two places via Bayfield a distance of about 125 miles, 2 miles of these being across the frozen lake from the Island to Bayfield.

 

Dangerous Crossing on the Ice.

An Indian named Kitchie (big) Inini (man) was hired to carry it.  Once on the way on he started to cross on the ice but found it very unsafe and turned back.  When my brother heard this, he made up his mind to see that the mail started on its way across the Lake no matter what the consequence.  He took a rope about 25 ft. long tying one end around his body and the other about mine, and he and I each took a long light pole carrying it with two hands crosswise, which was to hold us up with in case we broke through the ice.  Taking the mail bag on a small tobogan sled drawn by a dog, we started out with the Indian.  When we had gone but a short way the ice was so bad that the Indian now thoroughly frightened turned back again, but my brother called me telling me not to pay any attention to him and we went straight on.  This put him to shame and he finally followed us.  We reached the other side in safety, but had found the crossing so dangerous, that we hesitated to return over it and thought best to wait until we could return by a small boat, but the time for this was so uncertain that after all we concluded to risk going back on the ice taking a shorter cut for the Island, and we were lucky to get back all right.

In the summer when the mail carrier returned from these trips, he would build a fire on the shore of the bay about 5 miles distant, as a signal to send a boat to bring him across to the Island.  Once I remember my brother Julius not being at home when a signal was given.  I with two young Indian boys (about 12 yrs. of age) started to cross over with the boat, when about two miles out a terrific thunder and hail storm sprang up suddenly.  The hail stones were so large that it caused the boys to relax their hold on the oars and it was all I could do to keep them at the oars.  I attempted to steer the boat back to the Island, and barely managed to reach there.  The boat was over half full of water when we reached the shore.  When I landed we were met by the boys’ mothers who were greatly incensed at my taking their boys on this perilous trip, nearly resulting in drowning them.  They didn’t consider I had no idea of this terrible thunder storm which so suddenly came up and had I known it for my own safety would not dreamed of attempting the trip.

 

Nearly Capsize in a Small Boat.

Once I went out in a small sail boat with two Frenchmen to collect some barrels of fish near the Island at the fishing ground near La Point.  We got two barrels of fish which they stood up on end, when a sudden gust of wind caused the boat to list to one side so that the barrels fell over on the side and nearly capsized the boat.  By pulling the barrels up the boat was finally righted after being pretty well filled with water.  I could not swim, and as a matter of self-preservation grabbed the Frenchman nearest me.  He was furious, expressing his anger half in French and half in English, saying, “If I had drowned, I would have taken him with me.” which no doubt was true.

 

A Young Indian Locked up for Robbery

Indian Agent John S. Watrous was the most conspicuous villain of the previous year’s Sandy Lake Tragedy.  Despite hundreds of deaths, and the Indian Department’s cancellation of the removal order, Watrous tried to illegally force a second removal in the fall of 1851 by holding the payments in Sandy Lake again.  Very few Ojibwe agreed to return to Sandy Lake, and most went without their payments for a second-straight year.  Joseph’s chronology is a little unclear.  This may be a reference to the cash payments at Fond du Lac in January 1852.
Like Joseph, Henry Schmitz, was an employee and later a business partner of Julius Austrian.

One day brother Julius went to the Indian payment.  During his absence I with another employee, Henry Schmitz, were left in charge.  A young Indian that night burglarized the store stealing some gold coins from the cash drawer.  The same were offered to someone in the town next day who told me, which led to his detection.  He admitted theft and was committed to jail by the Indian agent Mr. Watrous, which the Indians consider a great disgrace.

Some inquisitive boys peering through the window discovered that the young Indian had attempted to commit suicide and spread the alarm.  His father was away at the time and his mother and friends were frenzied and their threats of vengeance were loud.  The jailer was found but he had lost the key to the jail (the jail was in a log hut) the door of which was finally forced open with an axe, and the young culprit with his head bleeding was handed over to his people who revived him in their wigwam.  The next day the money was returned and we and the authorities were glad to call it quits.

To be continued at La Pointe 1851-1852 (Part 2)

 

Special thanks to Amorin Mello and Joseph Skulan for sharing this document and their important research on the Austrian brothers and their associates with me.  It is to their credit that these stories see the light of day.  The original handwritten memoir of Joseph Austrian is held by the Chicago History Museum.    

Oshogay

August 12, 2013

At the most recent count, Chief Buffalo is mentioned in over two-thirds of the posts here on Chequamegon History.  That’s the most of anyone listed so far in the People Index.  While there are more Buffalo posts on the way, I also want to draw attention to some of the lesser known leaders of the La Pointe Band.  So, look for upcoming posts about Dagwagaane (Tagwagane), Mizay, Blackbird, Waabojiig, Andeg-wiiyas, and others.  I want to start, however, with Oshogay, the young speaker who traveled to Washington with Buffalo in 1852 only to die the next year before the treaty he was seeking could be negotiated.

Two hundred years before Oshogay went to Washington D. C., the Jesuits of New France recorded the Outchougai (Atchougue) as a distinct nation among the many Anishinaabe peoples of the Western Great Lakes along with the Amikouet (Beavers), Nikikouet (Otters), Noquet (Bears), Monsoni (Moose), Marameg (Catfish), and several others.  By the 19th century, these nations were seen no longer seen as distinct nations but as clans of the Otchipoek (Cranes).  According to Schoolcraft and others, the Outchougai (Oshogays) were the Osprey or Fish Hawk clan.  However, others identified them with the Heron (zhashagi  in Ojibwe; Osprey is piichigiigwane).  I am far from being an expert on the Ojibwe clan system, but it seems by the 1800s, the Oshogay clan was either gone from the Anishinaabe of the Lake Superior country or had been absorbed into the Cranes. However, the word Oshogay continued to be a personal name. 

I debated whether to do this post, since I don’t know a lot about Oshogay.  I don’t know for sure what his name means, so I don’t know how to spell or pronounce it correctly (in the sources you see Oshogay, O-sho-ga, Osh-a-ga, Oshaga, Ozhoge, etc.).  In fact, I don’t even know how many people he is.  There were at least four men with that name among the Lake Superior Ojibwe between 1800 and 1860, so much like with the Great Chief Buffalo Picture Search, the key to getting Oshogay’s history right is dependent on separating his story from those who share his name.

In the end, I felt that challenge was worth a post in its own right, so here it is.

Getting Started

According to his gravestone, Oshogay was 51 when he died at La Pointe in 1853.  That would put his birth around 1802.  However, the Ojibwe did not track their birthdays in those days, so that should not be considered absolutely precise.  He was considered a young man of the La Pointe Band at the time of his death.  In my mind, the easiest way to sort out the information is going to be to lay it out chronologically.  Here it goes:

1)  Henry Schoolcraft, United States Indian Agent at Sault Ste. Marie, recorded the following on July 19, 1828:

Oshogay (the Osprey), solicited provisions to return home. This young man had been sent down to deliver a speech from his father, Kabamappa, of the river St. Croix, in which he regretted his inability to come in person. The father had first attracted my notice at the treaty of Prairie du Chien, and afterwards received a small medal, by my recommendation, from the Commissioners at Fond du Lac. He appeared to consider himself under obligations to renew the assurance of his friendship, and this, with the hope of receiving some presents, appeared to constitute the object of his son’s mission, who conducted himself with more modesty and timidity before me than prudence afterwards; for, by extending his visit to Drummond Island, where both he and his father were unknown, he got nothing, and forfeited the right to claim anything for himself on his return here.

I sent, however, in his charge, a present of goods of small amount, to be delivered to his father, who has not countenanced his foreign visit.

Oshogay is a “young man.”  A birth year of 1802 would make him 26.  He is part of Gaa-bimabi’s (Kabamappa’s) village in the upper St. Croix country.

2) In June of 1834, Edmund Ely and W. T. Boutwell, two missionaries, traveled from Fond du Lac (today’s Fond du Lac Reservation near Cloquet) down the St. Croix to Yellow Lake (near today’s Webster, WI) to meet with other missionaries. As they left Gaa-bimabi’s (Kabamappa’s) village near the head of the St. Croix and reached the Namekagon River on June 28th, they were looking for someone to guide them the rest of the way.  An old Ojibwe man, who Boutwell had met before at La Pointe, and his son offered to help. The man fed the missionaries fish and hunted for them while they camped a full day at the mouth of the Namekagon since the 29th was a Sunday and they refused to travel on the Sabbath.  On Monday the 30th, the reembarked, and Ely recorded in his journal:

The man, whose name is “Ozhoge,” and his son embarked with us about 1/2 past 9 °clk a.m. The old man in the bow and myself steering.  We run the rapids safely.  At half past one P. M. arrived at the mouth of Yellow River…  

Ozhoge is an “old man” in 1834, so he couldn’t have been born in 1802.  He is staying on the Namekagon River in the upper St. Croix country between Gaa-bimabi and the Yellow Lake Band.  He had recently spent time at La Pointe.

3)  Ely’s stay on the St. Croix that summer was brief.  He was stationed at Fond du Lac until he eventually wore out his welcome there. In the 1840s, he would be stationed at Pokegama, lower on the St. Croix.  During these years, he makes multiple references to a man named Ozhogens (a diminutive of Ozhoge).  Ozhogens is always found above Yellow River on the upper St. Croix.

Ozhogens has a name that may imply someone older (possibly a father or other relative) lives nearby with the name Ozhoge.  He seems to live in the upper St. Croix country.  A birth year of 1802 would put him in his forties, which is plausible.

capt

Ke-che-wask keenk (Gichi-weshki) is Chief Buffalo.  Gab-im-ub-be (Gaa-bimabi) was the chief Schoolcraft identified as the father of Oshogay.  Ja-che-go-onk was a son of Chief Buffalo.

4) On August 2, 1847, the United States and the Mississippi and Lake Superior Ojibwe concluded a treaty at Fond du Lac.  The US Government wanted Ojibwe land along the nation’s border with the Dakota Sioux, so it could remove the Ho-Chunk people from Wisconsin to Minnesota.

Among the signatures, we find O-sho-gaz, a warrior from St. Croix.  This would seem to be the Ozhogens we meet in Ely.

Here O-sho-gaz is clearly identified as being from St. Croix.  His identification as a warrior would probably indicate that he is a relatively young man.  The fact that his signature is squeezed in the middle of the names of members of the La Pointe Band may or may not be significant.  The signatures on the 1847 Treaty are not officially grouped by band, but they tend to cluster as such. 

5)  In 1848 and 1849 George P. Warren operated the fur post at Chippewa Falls and kept a log that has been transcribed and digitized by the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire.  He makes several transactions with a man named Oshogay, and at one point seems to have him employed in his business.  His age isn’t indicated, but the amount of furs he brings in suggests that he is the head of a small band or large family.  There were multiple Ojibwe villages on the Chippewa River at that time, including at Rice Lake and Lake Shatac (Chetek).  The United States Government treated with them as satellite villages of the Lac Courte Oreilles Band.

Based on where he lives, this Oshogay might not be the same person as the one described above.

6)  In December 1850, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in the case Oshoga vs. The State of Wisconsin, that there were a number of irregularities in the trial that convicted “Oshoga, an Indian of the Chippewa Nation” of murder.  The court reversed the decision of the St. Croix County circuit court.  I’ve found surprisingly little about this case, though that part of Wisconsin was growing very violent in the 1840s as white lumbermen and liquor salesmen were flooding the country.

Pg 56 of Containing cases decided from the December term, 1850, until the organization of the separate Supreme Court in 1853: Volume 3 of Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of the State of Wisconsin: With Tables of the Cases and Principal Matters, and the Rules of the Several Courts in Force Since 1838, Wisconsin. Supreme Court Authors: Wisconsin. Supreme Court, Silas Uriah Pinney (Google Books).

The man killed, Alexander Livingston, was a liquor dealer himself.

Alexander Livingston, a man who in youth had had excellent advantages, became himself a dealer in whisky, at the mouth of Wolf creek, in a drunken melee in his own store was shot and killed by Robido, a half-breed. Robido was arrested but managed to escape justice.

~From Fifty Years in the Northwest by W.H.C Folsom

Several pages later, Folsom writes:

At the mouth of Wolf creek, in the extreme northwestern section of this town, J. R. Brown had a trading house in the ’30s, and Louis Roberts in the ’40s. At this place Alex. Livingston, another trader, was killed by Indians in 1849. Livingston had built him a comfortable home, which he made a stopping place for the weary traveler, whom he fed on wild rice, maple sugar, venison, bear meat, muskrats, wild fowl and flour bread, all decently prepared by his Indian wife. Mr. Livingston was killed by an Indian in 1849.

Folsom makes no mention of Oshoga, and I haven’t found anything else on what happened to him or Robido (Robideaux?).

It’s hard to say if this Oshoga is the Ozhogen’s of Ely’s journals or the Oshogay of Warren’s.  Wolf Creek is on the St. Croix, but it’s not far from the Chippewa River country either, and the Oshogay of Warren seems to have covered a lot of ground in the fur trade.  Warren’s journal, linked in #4, contains a similar story of a killing and “frontier justice” leading to lynch mobs against the Ojibwe.  To escape the violence and overcrowding, many Ojibwe from that part of the country started to relocate to Fond du Lac, Lac Courte Oreilles, or La Pointe/Bad River.  La Pointe is also where we find the next mention of Oshogay. 

7)  From 1851 to 1853, a new voice emerged loudly from the La Pointe Band in the aftermath of the Sandy Lake Tragedy.  It was that of Buffalo’s speaker Oshogay (or O-sho-ga), and he spoke out strongly against Indian Agent John Watrous’ handling of the Sandy Lake payments (see this post) and against Watrous’ continued demands for removal of the Lake Superior Ojibwe.  There are a number of documents with Oshogay’s name on them, and I won’t mention all of them, but I recommend Theresa Schenck’s William W. Warren and Howard Paap’s Red Cliff, Wisconsin as two places to get started. 

Chief Buffalo was known as a great speaker, but he was nearing the end of his life, and it was the younger chief who was speaking on behalf of the band more and more.  Oshogay represented Buffalo in St. Paul, co-wrote a number of letters with him, and most famously, did most of the talking when the two chiefs went to Washington D.C. in the spring of 1852 (at least according to Benjamin Armstrong’s memoir).  A number of secondary sources suggest that Oshogay was Buffalo’s son or son-in-law, but I’ve yet to see these claims backed up with an original document.  However, all the documents that identify by band, say this Oshogay was from La Pointe.

The Wisconsin Historical Society has digitized four petitions drafted in the fall of 1851 and winter of 1852.  The petitions are from several chiefs, mostly of the La Pointe and Lac Courte Oreilles/Chippewa River bands, calling for the removal of John Watrous as Indian Agent.  The content of the petitions deserves its own post, so for now we’ll only look at the signatures.

xcv,

November 6, 1851 Letter from 30 chiefs and headmen to Luke Lea, Commissioner of Indian Affairs:  Multiple villages are represented here, roughly grouped by band.  Kijiueshki (Buffalo), Jejigwaig (Buffalo’s son), Kishhitauag (“Cut Ear” also associated with the Ontonagon Band), Misai (“Lawyerfish”),  Oshkinaue (“Youth”), Aitauigizhik (“Each Side of the Sky”), Medueguon, and Makudeuakuat (“Black Cloud”) are all known members of the La Pointe Band.  Before the 1850s, Kabemabe (Gaa-bimabi) and Ozhoge were associated with the villages of the Upper St. Croix.

antiwatrous2

November 8, 1851, Letter from the Chiefs and Headmen of Chippeway River, Lac Coutereille, Puk-wa-none, Long Lake, and Lac Shatac to Alexander Ramsey, Superintendent of Indian Affairs:  This letter was written from Sandy Lake two days after the one above it was written from La Pointe.  O-sho-gay the warrior from Lac Shatac (Lake Chetek) can’t be the same person as Ozhoge the chief unless he had some kind of airplane or helicopter back in 1851.

antiwatrous3

Undated (Jan. 1852?) petition to “Our Great Father”:  This Oshoga is clearly the one from Lake Chetek (Chippewa River). 

antiwatrous4

Undated (Jan. 1852?) petition:  These men are all associated with the La Pointe Band.  Osho-gay is their Speaker.

In the early 1850s, we clearly have two different men named Oshogay involved in the politics of the Lake Superior Ojibwe.  One is a young warrior from the Chippewa River country, and the other is a rising leader among the La Pointe Band.

Washington Delegation July 22, 1852 This engraving of the 1852 delegation led by Buffalo and Oshogay appeared in Benjamin Armstrong’s Early Life Among the Indians.  Look for an upcoming post dedicated to this image.

8)  In the winter of 1853-1854, a smallpox epidemic ripped through La Pointe and claimed the lives of a number of its residents including that of Oshogay.  It had appeared that Buffalo was grooming him to take over leadership of the La Pointe Band, but his tragic death left a leadership vacuum after the establishment of reservations and the death of Buffalo in 1855.

Oshogay’s death is marked in a number of sources including the gravestone at the top of this post.  The following account comes from Richard E. Morse, an observer of the 1855 annuity payments at La Pointe:

The Chippewas, during the past few years, have suffered extensively, and many of them died, with the small pox.  Chief O-SHO-GA died of this disease in 1854.  The Agent caused a suitable tomb-stone to be erected at his grave, in La Pointe.  He was a young chief, of rare promise and merit; he also stood high in the affections of his people.   

Later, Morse records a speech by Ja-be-ge-zhick or “Hole in the Sky,” a young Ojibwe man from the Bad River Mission who had converted to Christianity and dressed in “American style.” Jabegezhick speaks out strongly to the American officials against the assembled chiefs:

…I am glad you have seen us, and have seen the folly of our chiefs; it may give you a general idea of their transactions.  By the papers you have made out for the chiefs to sign, you can judge of their ability to do business for us.  We had but one man among us, capable of doing business for the Chippewa nation; that man was O-SHO-GA, now dead and our nation now mourns.  (O-SHO-GA was a young chief of great merit and much promise; he died of small-pox, February 1854).  Since his death, we have lost all our faith in the balance of our chiefs…

This O-sho-ga is the young chief, associated with the La Pointe Band, who went to Washington with Buffalo in 1852.

9)  In 1878, “Old Oshaga” received three dollars for a lynx bounty in Chippewa County.

It seems quite possible that Old Oshaga is the young man that worked with George Warren in the 1840s and the warrior from Lake Chetek who signed the petitions against Agent Watrous in the 1850s.

10) In 1880, a delegation of Bad River, Lac Courte Oreilles, and Lac du Flambeau chiefs visited Washington D.C.  I will get into their purpose in a future post, but for now, I will mention that the chiefs were older men who would have been around in the 1840s and ’50s. One of them is named Oshogay.  The challenge is figuring out which one.

Ojibwe Delegation c. 1880 by Charles M. Bell.   [Identifying information from the Smithsonian] Studio portrait of Anishinaabe Delegation posed in front of a backdrop. Sitting, left to right: Edawigijig; Kis-ki-ta-wag; Wadwaiasoug (on floor); Akewainzee (center); Oshawashkogijig; Nijogijig; Oshoga. Back row (order unknown); Wasigwanabi; Ogimagijig; and four unidentified men (possibly Frank Briggs, top center, and Benjamin Green Armstrong, top right). The men wear European-style suit jackets and pants; one man wears a peace medal, some wear beaded sashes or bags or hold pipes and other props.(Smithsonian Institution National Museum of the American Indian).

This same image is on display at the Bayfield Public Library.  The men in the picture are identified, presumably by someone in the early 20th century with some firsthand knowledge, but the identification doesn’t correspond to the names identified by the Smithsonian.  Osho’gay is the only name common to the Smithsonian’s information (in bold for reference) and the library’s information as follows:

Upper row reading from the left.
1.  Vincent Conyer- Interpreter 1,2,4,5 ?, includes Wasigwanabi and Ogimagijig
2.  Vincent Roy Jr.
3.  Dr. I. L. Mahan, Indian Agent   Frank Briggs
4.  No Name Given
5.  Geo P. Warren (Born at LaPointe- civil war vet.
6.  Thad Thayer      Benjamin Armstrong
Lower row
1.  Messenger    Edawigijig
2.  Na-ga-nab (head chief of all Chippewas)   Kis-ki-ta-wag
3.  Moses White, father of Jim White          Waswaisoug
4.  No Name Given         Akewainzee
5.  Osho’gay- head speaker     Oshawashkogijig or Oshoga
6.  Bay’-qua-as’ (head chief of La Corrd Oreilles, 7 ft. tall) Nijogijig or Oshawashkogijig
7.  No name given  Oshoga or Nijogijig

The Smithsonian lists Oshoga last, so that would mean he is the man sitting in the chair at the far right.  However, it doesn’t specify who the man seated on the right on the floor is, so it’s also possible that he’s their Oshoga.  If the latter is true, that’s also who the unknown writer of the library caption identified as Osho’gay.  Whoever he is in the picture, it seems very possible that this is the same man as “Old Oshaga” from number 9.

11) There is one more document I’d like to include, although it doesn’t mention any of the people we’ve discussed so far, it may be of interest to someone reading this post.  It mentions a man named Oshogay who was born before 1860 (albeit not long before).

For decades after 1854, many of the Lake Superior Ojibwe continued to live off of the reservations created in the Treaty of La Pointe.  This was especially true in the St. Croix region where no reservation was created at all.  In the 1910s, the Government set out to document where various Ojibwe families were living and what tribal rights they had.  This process led to the creation of the St. Croix and Mole Lake reservations.  In 1915, we find 64-year-old Oshogay and his family living in Randall, Wisconsin which may suggest a connection to the St. Croix Oshogays.  As with number 6 above, this creates some ambiguity because he is listed as enrolled at Lac Courte Oreilles, which implies a connection to the Chippewa River Oshogay.  For now, I leave this investigation up to someone else, but I’ll leave it here for interest.

This is not any of the Oshogays discussed so far, but it could be a relative of any or all of them.

In the final analysis

These eleven documents mention at least four men named Oshogay living in northern Wisconsin between 1800 and 1860.  Edmund Ely met an old man named Oshogay in 1834.  He is one.  A 64-year old man, a child in the 1850s, was listed on the roster of “St. Croix Indians.”  He is another.  I believe the warrior from Lake Chetek who traded with George Warren in the 1840s could be one of the chiefs who went to Washington in 1880.  He may also be the one who was falsely accused of killing Alexander Livingston.  Of these three men, none are the Oshogay who went to Washington with Buffalo in 1852.

Credit where credit is due, Theresa Schenck is the person who first told me about the strong St. Croix-La Pointe connection and the movement of many St. Croix families to Bad River in the 1850s. In his 2012 dissertation, The Murder of Joe White: Ojibwe Leadership and Colonialism in Wisconsin, Erik M. Redix identifies the “La Pointe” Oshoge as being a “St. Croix chief.”

That leaves us with the last mystery.  Is Ozhogens, the young son of the St. Croix chief Gaa-bimabi, the orator from La Pointe who played such a prominent role in the politics of the early 1850s?  I don’t have a smoking gun, but I feel the circumstantial evidence strongly suggests he is.  If that’s the case, it explains why those who’ve looked for his early history in the La Pointe Band have come up empty. 

However, important questions remain unanswered.  What was his connection to Buffalo? If he was from St. Croix, how was he able to gain such a prominent role in the La Pointe Band, and why did he relocate to La Pointe anyway?  I have my suspicions for each of these questions, but no solid evidence.  If you do, please let me know, and we’ll continue to shed light on this underappreciated Ojibwe leader.

 

 

Sources:

Armstrong, Benj G., and Thomas P. Wentworth. Early Life among the Indians: Reminiscences from the Life of Benj. G. Armstrong : Treaties of 1835, 1837, 1842 and 1854 : Habits and Customs of the Red Men of the Forest : Incidents, Biographical Sketches, Battles, &c. Ashland, WI: Press of A.W. Bowron, 1892. Print.
Ely, Edmund Franklin, and Theresa M. Schenck. The Ojibwe Journals of Edmund F. Ely, 1833-1849. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2012. Print.
Folsom, William H. C., and E. E. Edwards. Fifty Years in the Northwest. St. Paul: Pioneer, 1888. Print.
KAPPLER’S INDIAN AFFAIRS: LAWS AND TREATIES. Ed. Charles J. Kappler. Oklahoma State University Library, n.d. Web. 12 August 2013. <http:// digital.library.okstate.edu/Kappler/>.
Nichols, John, and Earl Nyholm. A Concise Dictionary of Minnesota Ojibwe. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1995. Print.
Paap, Howard D. Red Cliff, Wisconsin: A History of an Ojibwe Community. St. Cloud, MN: North Star, 2013. Print.
Redix, Erik M. “The Murder of Joe White: Ojibwe Leadership and Colonialism in Wisconsin.” Diss. University of Minnesota, 2012. Print.
Schenck, Theresa M. The Voice of the Crane Echoes Afar: The Sociopolitical Organization of the Lake Superior Ojibwa, 1640-1855. New York: Garland Pub., 1997. Print.
———–William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and times of an Ojibwe Leader. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2007. Print.
Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe. Personal Memoirs of a Residence of Thirty Years with the Indian Tribes on the American Frontiers: With Brief Notices of Passing Events, Facts, and Opinions, A.D. 1812 to A.D. 1842. Philadelphia, [Pa.: Lippincott, Grambo and, 1851. Print.
Warren, William W., and Theresa M. Schenck. History of the Ojibway People. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 2009. Print.

      

“Chippewa Indians Fishing on the Ice” (Digitized by New York Public Library from Heroes and hunters of the West : comprising sketches and adventures of Boone, Kenton, Brady, Logan, Whetzel, Fleehart, Hughes, Johnston, etc. Philadelphia : H. C. Peck & Theo. Bliss, 1859.)

On June 9th, I transcribed and posted two letters related to the Sandy Lake Tragedy (the attempted removal of the Lake Superior Ojibwe in the fall of 1850, which claimed as many as 400 innocent lives). The letters, digitized by the Wisconsin Historical Society, were from the Warren Family Papers. One was from missionary Leonard Wheeler to William Warren before the tragedy, and another was from Indian Agent John Watrous to Warren during a second removal attempt a year later.

That post sought to assess how much responsibility Warren and Watrous bear for the 400 deaths. It also touched on the role of the Protestant A.B.C.F.M. missionaries in the region. This post continues those thoughts. This time, we’re looking at two more letters and evaluating one of the missionaries himself.

Both of these letters are from the Wheeler Family Papers, held by the Wisconsin Historical Society at the Ashland Area Research Center. I went directly to the original documents for these, and while I’ve seen them referenced in published works, I believe this is the first time these particular letters have been transcribed or posted online.

The first is from Sherman Hall, the founder of the La Pointe Mission, to his colleague Leonard Wheeler, who operated the satellite mission at Odanah. Hall traveled to Sandy Lake for the annuity payments and sent this letter to Wheeler, who was visiting family back in Massachusetts, after returning to La Pointe.


Lapointe. Dec. 28th 1850

Brother Wheeler:

I wrote you while at Sandy Lake and promised to write again when I should reach Lapointe. That promise I now redeem. I started from Sandy Lake on the fourth inst. and reached home on the 16th having been absent from home just eight weeks. I was never more heartily glad to leave a place than I was Sandy Lake, nor more glad to reach home after an absence. Of course winter here has justly begun. The snow was some ten inches deep on the Savannah Portage. On reaching the East Savannah River we found the ice good and clear of snow and water. This continued to be the case most of the way to the Grand Portage at Fond du Lac. From Fond du Lac to Lapointe the traveling most of the way was hard, and it was not till the seventh day from F. du L. that I reached home. Besides bad traveling I had to carry a pack which I found, when I got home weighed 60 pounds. With this however I found it not difficult to keep up with most of my traveling companions who were much heavier loaded than I. This is my first experience of carrying a heavy pack on a long journey and I am fully satisfied with the experiment. I had no alternative however, bet either to throw away my blankets and clothes, or carry them. Every body was loaded with a heavy pack, and I could employ no one. I however got through well—did not get lame as many others did, nor do I feel any furious[?] by ill effects of my journey since my arrival.

I found the mission family well on my arrival. They had felt somewhat lonesome while so many were absent from this place. Things in the community here are generally in a quiet state at present. I apprehend that there will be considerable pinching for provisions before spring. It has been a very windy and stormy fall. The people have taken but little fish. Many nets have been lost. The traders have but a small quantity of provisions, and if they had the people have but little to buy with. The bay opposite to this island is now principally covered with ice so that the Indians are on the ice some to spear fish. The ice has once broken up since it first closed, and a heavy wind would break it up again, as it is yet very thin, and the weather mild. If the lake is frozen the Inds will probably get considerable fish; but if it should be open they must suffer.

Our Indian meetings are pretty well attended, and I feel that there is ground for encouragement. Simon I think is exerting a good influence. His Catholic friends have tried to draw him back to their church; but seems stable. His oldest brother, who has recently lost his wife, has expressed a wish to hear the word of God. I hope he will yet become a sincere listener.

Our English exercises are attended by a smaller number than formerly since many have left this place. I think however for our own good, as well as on account of others, we ought to keep them up. Mr. Van Tassel has returned to remain here till spring. I have heard nothing from Bad River for some time past. I had formed a design to go there this week, but have been prevented by the state of the ice. I intend going as soon as the ice gets a little stronger. I suppose there are very few Indians there. More are about the Lake.

I heard that Mr. Leihy has lost both his horses which will be a serious inconvenience to him in this mill enterprise I presume.

Mr. Pulsifer has received one letter from you, and by our last mail he heard through his correspondent at Lowell that you had arrived at that place.

I suppose you find some changes have taken place in the wide world during the times you have been shut up in the wilderness. Do you find calls enough to keep you busy? I have been expecting a letter from you. I want to hear what you have to say about the things you see, and how you like visiting, etc.

I have just had a letter from Mr. Ely, who says, “We are [snugly by quarters?] in St. Paul. My home is full of music—am employed as choir leader in Mr. [Mill’s?] (Prs.) church—sing two evenings a week at Stillwater, and the rest of my time is well filled with the private scholars & tuning Pianos, of which there are 7 or 8 at St. Paul.” Perhaps Br. Ely will find this a more lucrative business than cutting and hauling pine logs. I am glad he has found employment.

Our children all attend school except Harriet. Marydoes very well. Please give my regards to your friends at Lowell. I am writing to Mr. Treat by this opportunity. [Wish?] kind regards to Mrs. W. I remain

yours

S. Hall.

“I was never more heartily glad to leave a place…” According to Chief Buffalo, 150 Ojibwe died at Sandy Lake that fall, and as many as 250 more died returning home along the route Hall describes. While still a very harsh journey, La Pointe would have been easier to reach alive than other Ojibwe villages inland from Lake Superior.
The Savannah Portage connects the West Savannah River (Mississippi watershed) to the East Savannah River (Lake Superior watershed). It was one of the most difficult parts of the route from Sandy Lake to Fond du Lac.
The Old Mission Church, La Pointe, Madeline Island. (Wisconsin Historical Society Image ID: 24827)
“…and if they had the people have but little to buy with.” This is because the government failed to honor its treaty obligations and pay the annuities at Sandy Lake as promised.
The Indian meetings were prayer services conducted in Ojibwe. The ABCFM put a lot of effort into translating scriptures and hymns, and missionaries like Hall produced many of the earliest published works in the Ojibwe language. Simon is mentioned in both of the letters in this post. Rather than guess who he is, I will do more research and find out. From context, it seems he was one of the small number of mix-blood converts, or even fewer Ojibwe converts.
The 1850 US Census and 1855 Wisconsin State Census list William Van Tassel a blacksmith, Charles Pulsifer a teacher in the mission, and Erwin Leihy among the early American settlers of the Chequamegon Region.
A former colleague of Wheeler and Hall, Edmund F. Ely had left the missionary business by this time. His journals, edited and published by Theresa Schenck in 2012, provide some of the best insight available about this area in the 1830s.
Selah B. Treat was Secretary of the A.B.C.F.M. back in Boston.
Two months later, Hall is compelled to write the Wheelers in Massachusetts again. The reverend’s December predictions of “considerable fish” have not materialized, and the Ojibwe of La Pointe without their annuity payments, are starving.
This time, Hall addressed the letter to Harriet Wheeler, Leonard’s wife. She apparently had written to Hall’s teenage daughter (also named Harriet). It is unclear if Harriet Wheeler had expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the missionary efforts in that letter, but Reverend Hall’s letter back seems to suggest it does. In trying to convince Wheeler to “come back home,” Hall reveals his own doubts and beliefs. Taken in the context of the recent horrors of Sandy Lake and the continued starvation and suffering in the winter of 1851, it is a chilling letter to read–as much for Hall’s statements about the people he’s trying to “save” as it is for the hardships it describes.

Harriet Wheeler, pictured about forty years after receiving this letter. (Wisconsin Historical Society: Image ID 36771)

…your note to Harriet” Harriet Hall was Sherman’s oldest daughter, about 19 years old at this time.

“Generally they do not want to improve their condition.” This paragraph highlights, in part, why the missionaries gained so few converts. For them, conversion didn’t just demand a change in faith. It required that Indians fully adopt a particular kind of American Protestant worldview.
“But as long as they continue to waste their summers in idleness they must starve in the winter.” Hall neglects to mention that the government actively discouraged the Ojibwe from planting gardens or gathering wild rice in the summer of 1850, saying they would be removed to Sandy Lake and the annuity payments (which never arrived) would see them through the winter.
Many Ojibwe leaders, including Hole in the Day, blamed the rotten pork and moldy flour distributed at Sandy Lake for the disease that broke out. The speech in St. Paul is covered on pages 101-109 of Theresa Schenck’s William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and Times of an Ojibwe Leader, my favorite book about this time period. (Photo from Whitney’s Gallery of St. Paul: Wisconsin Historical Society Image ID 27525)
Naw-waw-ge-waw-nose, the Little Current, was one of nine men from the La Pointe Band to sign the Treaty of 1854 as a “2nd Chief (Buffalo was the only member of the band to sign as a “1st Chief). According to Charles Lippert on Wikipedia, the modern spelling would be Naawajiwanose, translated as “Walks through the Middle of the Current.” In History of the Ojibways, William Warren mentions a man named the Little Eddy living at La Pointe in the early 1850s. According to Warren, he was part of the war party that killed trader John Findley and a group of voyageurs in 1824 at Lake Pepin.
“Such are the methods the heathens & Catholics take to deceive us. We could make many converts with flour and pork, especially at this time.” This statement brings to mind the Great Famine in Ireland, also going on at this time. Some Protestant aid societies would only serve soup to starving Catholics who gave up their faith. This phenomenon, known as “souperism,” continues to weigh heavily on the Irish popular imagination.
Mary Warren (1835-1925), was a teenager at the time of the Sandy Lake Tragedy. She is pictured here over seventy years later. Mary, the sister of William Warren, had been living with the Wheelers but stayed with Hall during their trip east. (Photo found on University of Connecticut Radio website, scanned from Frances Densmore photos in the Smithsonian Bureau of Ethnology)

Lapointe, Feb. 24th 1851.

Mrs. Wheeler,

By our last mail I wrote to Mr Wheeler, and by this I will address a few lines to you. From your note to Harriet I suppose you are happy among your friends. I am glad you are so, and hope you will not only spend your winter pleasantly, but that you will find the present season of relaxation from the severe duties of your station here, the occasion of reconnecting[?] your health and spirits.

I do not feel that the time has yet come when the churches ought to close their efforts to save these Indians. I do not think they are entirely beyond the reach of hope. The prospect however looks dark. But I think the greatest cause of discouragement arises from their character, and not from their present political condition. Generally they do not want to improve their condition. They are satisfied with their ignorance and degradation. All they think of is to supply for their present wants without their own exertions, while they wish to live in idleness and sin. This is the cause of their keeping so much aloof from the influence of the missions. Their minds are dreadfully dark respecting the things of the future world. They seem to have no ideas of happiness superior to that derives from the gratification of the lowest animal appetites and passions. This is the reason why the truths of the gospel so little effect on them. These things present to my mind much stronger grounds of discouragement than their present political difficulties, though those at present are not inconsiderable.

But as stupid as is the conscience, and as dark as is the understanding and the heart, and as much as they are given up to [?]ality and sin, I believe there is a Power that can quicken them into life. My only hope is that He who has made them, and has power to save them, will come and add his blessing to the preaching of his own gospel, and make it to them the power and wisdom of God. Thousands of others as dead in trespasses and sins, have been saved. Why may not they be saved? Come back home and let us try still to do something for them. Tell Christians to remember them and pray for them, that the word of God among them may have free course and be glorified.

It is a time of great scarcity of food among the Indians. There is some one in our houses almost every hour of the day begging for food. Very few get more than a meal a day; many not half of one. I have been told by several individuals, that they have tried three or four days in succession to catch fish, and have been obliged to return to their starving families each night with nothing for them. I am frequently importuned to spare a little provisions till I am obliged to go away out of sight to get rid of their pleading. I have spared the last potatoes I dare let go. Corn we have none. We have but a small quantity of flour over what will be required to sustain our families till we can expect to obtain a new supply. For a long time I have not known fish so scarce as the present winter. That is almost the only dependence of this people. For a month to come there will be many hungry ones. Many of the French and half-breeds are but little better off than the Indians. All we can do is to divide a little morsel with the hungry ones who come to beg. We have not much to give to those who importune for something to carry to their families. But as long as they continue to waste their summers in idleness they must starve in the winter.

The young Hole-in-the-day has been down to St Paul and there made a public speech in which he attributes the sickness at the payment last fall to the bad provisions which were dealt out to the Indians, and imparts much blame to the officers of the government for the way in which they [were with?]. In time they had some flour dealt out to them which was much damaged. But I think there were other causes for the sickness which prevailed besides the bad provisions. I think however that in some [aspects?] the Indians were wronged. Treaty stipulations were not carried out. H is very confident that many of the Indians are not satisfied with the manner in which they have been dealt with, and recent events have not served to strengthen their attachment to the Government.

We had our communion yesterday. I think there is a [?]ably good state of feeling among the native church members at this time. Simon has been frequently sick this winter. But his trials appear to bring nearer to God. He appears to be growing in the knowledge of God and in piety.

You will probably recollect Mo-ko-kun-ens-ish, an Indian with a bunch[?] between his shoulders, married into the family of the Little-current. He is, by profession, a Catholic. About a week ago, he made me a visit, and said his priest had offended him, and he wished to join us. A short time since he lost a child, and when the priest came to bury it, he said he “scolded him” because he had not cleaned away the snow from the gate of the burying yard, and made a better path for him to come to the grave. He told a long story. I suspected his object was to get some provisions of me. I told him we should be happy to see him at our meetings, and told him where and when they would be held. He said he should attend only sometimes he might be obliged to fish to get something to eat, and be occasionally away. I said a few words to him on religious subjects, and he left without asking for anything. The next day he came with a small piece of cloth and asked me to give him provisions for it. I told I had not provisions to trade. He then enquired about meeting. I told him we were to hold one that evening in the school-house. He said he should attend. The evening came, the meeting was held—but he was not there. Nor have we seen him at any other meeting. Such are the methods the heathens & Catholics take to deceive us. We could make many converts with flour and pork, especially at this time.

Yours Truly,

S. Hall

[Written in margins]

All send love though I have not room to write it.

Mary goes to school and is doing very well.

 

 

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These are the originals of the paragraph about Hole in the Day’s speech in St. Paul. I couldn’t quite decipher all of it. Let me know what you see (Wheeler Family Papers, Personal Correspondence 1851, Wisconsin Historical Society Ashland Area Research Center).

In the June 9th post, we tried to determine how much William Warren and John S. Watrous were at fault for the deaths resulting from the 1850 Sandy Lake removal attempt. In this post, we will do the same for Sherman Hall.

Before we begin, it’s worth reviewing the facts. By 1850, Hall had lived at La Pointe for twenty years. He knew the people who lived here, and he knew the promises the Ojibwe were given at the Treaty of 1842. He was certainly aware of the Ojibwe position on the removal.

Rev. Hall did not order the removal. Compared with the government and Fur Company officials, he was fairly powerless within the Lake Superior region. However, he had a power of a different sort. As the primary voice of the ABCFM in Ojibwe country, he had powerful friends in the eastern states. Many Americans perceived the missionaries as the only neutral voice in the area. Hall admits in the December 28th letter that the Ojibwe were wronged. He could have advocated for their cause in the summer of 1850 as the illegal removal was unfolding. Instead, he largely went along with government efforts.

To his credit, in other letters Hall did blame the government for the failure of the Sandy Lake payment. The best book I’ve encountered about this time period is William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and Times of an Ojibwe Leader by Theresa Schenck (Nebraska UP, 2007). On page 94, Dr. Schenck quotes a letter from Hall to ABCFM Secretary S.B. Treat. It is dated December 30, and is probably the letter referred to in the letter to Leonard Wheeler above. Hall is honest about Ojibwe feelings on the removal and seems to empathize somewhat. On page 155, Schenck details how the La Pointe mission did eventually turn against government removal efforts later in 1851.

So, it probably seems that I am defending Sherman Hall. Why? Truthfully, it’s because I want to have some balance in this post because, quite frankly, these two letters are some of the most disgusting, horrifying documents I’ve ever read. I felt especially sick typing up the February 24th letter to Harriet Wheeler. For a man who claimed to be “saving” the Ojibwe to be so heartless in the midst of so much suffering is appalling.

Was the mission running low on food? Sure, but doesn’t true Christian charity demand sharing to the last?

Should Hall’s language be judged by the standards of the racist times he lived in? Absolutely, but to say the things he says about human beings, his neighbors of twenty years, is inexcusable in any time period.

Is it possible he was traumatized by his experience at Sandy Lake, and this was a way of dealing with his personal guilt? This is possible. He does seem to be speaking to himself in the letter as much as he is to the Wheelers.

There is a danger in judging too much from just two letters, but I think Hall needs to be held to the same standard as Warren and Watrous were in the June 9th post. He could have spoken out against the removal to begin with. He didn’t. He was an eyewitness to Sandy Lake. He knew what the Ojibwe had been promised, and he saw the consequences of the government breaking those promises. His letters to the Wheelers in Boston could have been used to help right those wrongs by uniting the missions behind the Ojibwe cause. Instead, he chose to blame the people who had been wronged to the point of 400 deaths. For these reasons, I think when we list the villains of Sandy Lake, the Reverend Sherman Hall needs to be among them.

Sources:
Densmore, Frances. Chippewa Customs. Washington: U.S. G.P.O., 1929. Print.
Ely, Edmund Franklin, and Theresa M. Schenck. The Ojibwe Journals of Edmund F. Ely, 1833-1849. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2012. Print.
KAPPLER’S INDIAN AFFAIRS: LAWS AND TREATIES. Ed. Charles J. Kappler. Oklahoma State University Library, n.d. Web. 21 June 2012. <http:// digital.library.okstate.edu/Kappler/>.
Satz, Ronald N. Chippewa Treaty Rights: The Reserved Rights of Wisconsin’s Chippewa Indians in Historical Perspective. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, 1991. Print.
Schenck, Theresa M. William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and times of an Ojibwe Leader. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2007. Print.
Warren, William W., and Theresa M. Schenck. History of the Ojibway People. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 2009. Print.

In the Fall of 1850, the Lake Superior Ojibwe (Chippewa) bands were called to receive their annual payments at Sandy Lake on the Mississippi River.  The money was compensation for the cession of most of northern Wisconsin,  Upper Michigan, and parts of Minnesota in the treaties of 1837 and 1842.  Before that, payments had always taken place in summer at La Pointe.  That year they were switched to Sandy Lake as part of a government effort to remove the entire nation from Wisconsin and Michigan in blatant disregard of promises made to the Ojibwe just a few years earlier.

There isn’t enough space in this post to detail the entire Sandy Lake Tragedy (I’ll cover more at a later date), but the payments were not made, and 130-150 Ojibwe people, mostly men, died that fall and winter at Sandy Lake.  Over 250 more died that December and January, trying to return to their villages without food or money.

George Warren (b.1823) was the son of Truman Warren and Charlotte Cadotte and the cousin of William Warren. (photo source unclear, found on Canku Ota Newsletter)

If you are a regular reader of Chequamegon History, you will recognize the name of William Warren as the writer of History of the Ojibway People.  William’s father, Lyman, was an American fur trader at La Pointe.  His mother, Mary Cadotte was a member of the influential Ojibwe-French Cadotte family of Madeline Island.  William, his siblings, and cousins were prominent in this era as interpreters and guides.  They were people who could navigate between the Ojibwe and mix-blood cultures that had been in this area for centuries, and the ever-encroaching Anglo-American culture.

The Warrens have a mixed legacy when it comes to the Sandy Lake Tragedy.  They initially supported the removal efforts, and profited from them as government employees, even though removal was completely against the wishes of their Ojibwe relatives.  However, one could argue this support for the government came from a misguided sense of humanitarianism.  I strongly recommend William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and Times of an Ojibwe Leader by Theresa Schenck if you are interested in Warren family and their motivations.  The Wisconsin Historical Society has also digitized several Warren family letters, and that’s what prompted this post.  I decided to transcribe and analyze two of these letters–one from before the tragedy and one from after it.

The first letter is from Leonard Wheeler, a missionary at Bad River, to William Warren.  Initially, I chose to transcribe this one because I wanted to get familiar with Wheeler’s handwriting.  The Historical Society has his papers in Ashland, and I’m planning to do some work with them this summer.  This letter has historical value beyond handwriting, however.  It shows the uncertainty that was in the air prior to the removal.  Wheeler doesn’t know whether he will have to move his mission to Minnesota or not, even though it is only a month before the payments are scheduled.     

Bad River

Sept 6, 1850

Dear Friend,

I have time to write you but a few lines, which I do chiefly to fulfill my promise to Hole in the Day’s son. Will you please tell him I and my family are expecting to go Below and visit our friends this winter and return again in the spring. We heard at Sandy Lake, on our way home, that this chief told [Rev.?] Spates that he was expecting a teacher from St. Peters’ if so, the Band will not need another missionary. I was some what surprised that the man could express a desire to have me come and live among his people, and then afterwards tell Rev Spates he was expecting a teacher this fall from St. Peters’. I thought perhaps there was some where a little misunderstanding. Mr Hall and myself are entirely undecided what we shall do next Spring. We shall wait a little and see what are to be the movements of gov. Mary we shall leave with Mr Hall, to go to school during the winter. We think she will have a better opportunity for improvement there, than any where else in the country. We reached our home in safety, and found our families all well. My wife wishes a kind remembrance and joins me in kind regards to your wife, Charlotte and all the members of your family. If Truman is now with you please remember us to him also. Tomorrow we are expecting to go to La Pointe and take the Steam Boat for the Sault monday. I can scarcely realize that nine years have passed away since in company with yourself and Pa[?] Edward[?] we came into the country.

Mary is now well and will probably write you by the bearer of this.

Very truly yours

L. H. Wheeler

By the 1850s, Young Hole in the Day was positioning himself to the government as “head chief of all the Chippewas,” but to the people of this area, he was still Gwiiwiizens (Boy), his famous father’s son. (Minnesota Historical Society)

Samuel Spates was a missionary at Sandy Lake.  Sherman Hall started as a missionary at La Pointe and later moved to Crow Wing.

Mary, Charlotte, and Truman Warren are William’s siblings.

The Wheeler letter is interesting for what it reveals about the position of Protestant missionaries in the 1850s Chequamegon region.   From the 1820s onward, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions sent missionaries, mostly Congregationalists and Presbyterians from New England, to the Lake Superior Country.  Their names, Wheeler, Hall, Ely, Boutwell, Ayer, etc. are very familiar to historians, because they produced hundreds of pages of letters and diaries that reveal a great deal about this time period.  

Leonard H. Wheeler (Wisconsin Historical Society)

Ojibwe people reacted to these missionaries in different ways.  A few were openly hostile, while others were friendly and visited prayer, song, and school meetings. Many more just ignored them or regarded them as a simple nuisance.  In forty-plus years, the amount of Ojibwe people converted to Protestantism could be counted on one hand, so in that sense the missions were a spectacular failure.  However, they did play a role in colonization as a vanguard for Anglo-American culture in the region. Unlike the traders, who generally married into Ojibwe communities and adapted to local ways to some degree, the missionaries made a point of trying to recreate “civilization in the wilderness.”  They brought their wives, their books, and their art with them.  Because they were not working for the government or the Fur Company, and because they were highly respected in white-American society, there were times when certain missionaries were able to help the Ojibwe advance their politics.  The aftermath of the Sandy Lake Tragedy was such a time for Wheeler.

This letter comes before the tragedy, however, and there are two things I want to point out.  First, Wheeler and Sherman Hall don’t know the tragedy is coming.  They were aware of the removal, and tentatively supported it on the grounds that it might speed up the assimilation and conversion of the Ojibwe, but they are clearly out of the loop on the government’s plans. 

Second, it seems to me that Hole in the Day is giving the missionaries the runaround on purpose.  While Wheeler and Spates were not powerful themselves, being hostile to them would not help the Ojibwe argument against the removal.  However, most Ojibwe did not really want what the missionaries had to offer.  Rather than reject them outright and cause a rift, the chief is confusing them.  I say this because this would not be the only instance in the records of Ojibwe people giving ambiguous messages to avoid having their children taken.

Anyway, that’s my guess on what’s going on with the school comment, but you can’t be sure from one letter.  Young Hole in the Day was a political genius, and I strongly recommend Anton Treuer’s The Assassination of Hole in the Day if you aren’t familiar with him.

c

I read this as “passed away since in company with yourself and Pa[?] Edward we came into the country.”  Who was Wheeler’s companion when a young William guided him to La Pointe?  I intend to find out and fix this quote.  (from original in the digital collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society)

The second letter I transcribed from the Warren Papers is from La Pointe Indian Agent John Watrous to William in August 1851.  This was the summer after the tragic removal attempt, which Watrous had been in charge of.  The government was trying to force the Ojibwe to remove again less than a year after the first removal attempt claimed 400 lives.  Needless to say, the Ojibwe were refusing to go back to Sandy Lake.

In 1851, Warren was in failing health and desperately trying to earn money for his family.  He accepted the position of government interpreter and conductor of the removal of the Chippewa River bands.   He feels removing is still the best course of action for the Ojibwe, but he has serious doubts about the government’s competence.  He hears the desires of the chiefs to meet with the president, and sees the need for a full rice harvest before making the journey to La Pointe.   Warren decides to stall at Lac Courte Oreilles until all the Ojibwe bands can unite and act as one, and does not proceed to Lake Superior as ordered by Watrous.  The agent is getting very nervous.

Clement and Paul (pictured) Hudon Beaulieu, and Edward Conner, were mix-blooded traders who like the Warrens were capable of navigating Anglo-American culture while maintaining close kin relationships in several Ojibwe communities.  Clement Beaulieu and William Warren had been fierce rivals ever since Beaulieu’s faction drove Lyman Warren out of the American Fur Company.  (Photo original unknown:  uploaded to findadagrave.com by Joan Edmonson)

For more on Cob-wa-wis (Oshkaabewis) and his Wisconsin River band, see this post.

Perish?

“Perish” is what I see, but I don’t know who that might be.  Is there a “Parrish”, or possibly a “Bineshii” who could have carried Watrous’ letter?  I’m on the lookout.  (from original in the digital collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society)

La Pointe

Aug 9th 1851

Friend Warren

I am now very anxiously waiting the arrival of yourself and the Indians that are embraced in your division to come out to this place.

Mr. C. H. Beaulieu has arrived from the Lake Du Flambeau with nearly all that quarter and by an express sent on in advance I am informed that P. H. Beaulieu and Edward Conner will be here with Cob-wa-wis and they say the entire Wisconsin band, there had some 32 of the Pillican Lake band come out and some now are in Conner’s Party.

I want you should be here without fail in 10 days from this as I cannot remain longer, I shall leave at the expiration of this time for Crow Wing to make the payment to the St. Croix Bands who have all removed as I learn from letters just received from the St. Croix.  I want your assistance very much in making the Crow Wing payment and immediately after the completion of this, (which will not take over two days[)] shall proceed to Sandy Lake to make the payment to the Mississippi and Lake Bands.

The goods are all at Sandy Lake and I shall make the entire payment without delay, and as much dispatch as can be made it; will be quite lots enough for the poor Indians.  Perish[?] is the bearer of this and he can tell you all my plans better then I can write them.  give My respects to your cousin George and beli[e]ve me

Your friend

       J. S. Watrous

W. W. Warren Esq.}

P. S.     Inform the Indians that if they are not here by the time they will be struck from the roll.  I am daily expecting a company of Infantry to be stationed at this place.

                                                                                                                        JSW

As far as we can tell, no one set out to murder 400 people during the Sandy Lake annuity payments in the winter of 1850-51.  Mistakes and oversights were made by various government officials during the process with deadly consequences.  That doesn’t mean, however, that we can call the Sandy Lake Tragedy an accident.  The Ojibwe were lied to, manipulated, and their wishes were ignored throughout the process.  The removal was not only unethical, it was probably also illegal.  However, no one served time for it, no one was fired for it, and while accusations and criticisms were leveled, no one was ever officially reprimanded.  

There are individuals who history needs to hold accountable for what happened.  Minnesota Territorial governor Alexander Ramsey has been justifiably given a large portion of the blame, but what about the people who were directly involved in carrying out the removal?  How much blame does William Warren deserve for being on the government payroll?  What about Watrous?  Chief Buffalo of La Pointe and other prominent Ojibwe leaders put the fault squarely on him, but others (including Warren) defended the agent’s actions in that horrible winter.  Watrous didn’t order the removal.  He didn’t cause congress to send the payments late.  He wasn’t even hired until the removal was already in the works, so how do we judge him?
Ultimately, we have to determine guilt by the way these men acted during the second removal attempt in the summer and fall of 1851.  Letters like the one transcribed above show that Warren was attempting to do right by his Ojibwe relatives even though he was working for the government.  His hands aren’t completely clean, but he maintained the trust of the Ojibwe leadership and ultimately worked to get them their desired audience with the president.  Watrous, however, was calling for troops and threatening to kick people off the annuity rolls less than a year after all that death occured under his watch.  To me, that has to put him among the most guilty in this dark chapter of history.   
Sources:
Schenck, Theresa M., William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and times of an Ojibwe Leader. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2007. Print.
Treuer, Anton. The Assassination of Hole in the Day. St. Paul, MN: Borealis, 2010. Print.
Warren, William W., and Theresa M. Schenck. History of the Ojibway People. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 2009. Print.